Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

More decline and fall (where’s our Gibbon?): The Struggle Inside The Wall Street Journal

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David Leonhardt in the NY Times:

The most successful modern publisher of ideological journalism is Rupert Murdoch. He buys media properties, or starts new ones, and turns them into conservative megaphones.

In England, he carefully nudged the venerable Times to the right, while his tabloids mocked Labour Party politicians as weaklings or Stalinists. In the United States, he transformed the once-liberal New York Post into a peppery conservative tabloid and then built Fox News from scratch.

Clearly, he enjoys both populist and elite media. And in 2007, he bought a journalistic jewel, The Wall Street Journal.

Now The Journal’s newsroom is embroiled in a fight over the paper’s direction.

Many staff members believe that the paper’s top editor, Gerard Baker, previously a feisty conservative commentator, is trying to Murdoch-ize the paper. “There is a systemic issue,” one reporter told me. The dissatisfaction went public last week, with stories in Politico and the Huffington Post. At a staff meeting on Monday, Baker dismissed the criticism as “fake news,” Joe Pompeo and Hadas Gold of Politico reported.

As a longtime reader, admirer and competitor of The Journal, I think the internal critics are right. You can see the news pages becoming more politicized. You can also see The Journal’s staff pushing back, through both great journalism (including exposes on the Trump administration) and quiet insubordination.

Consider The Journal’s coverage of Trump’s false voter-fraud allegations. The stories are mostly solid, noting Trump has no evidence. The headlines often tend toward stenography:

Trump Seeks Election Fraud Probe

Trump Takes Aim at ‘Millions’ of Votes

Top Adviser Repeats Vote-Fraud Claims

Reporters and editors have become accustomed to the “shaving off the edges” of Trump-related stories, one said, especially in headlines and initial paragraphs. The insubordination shows up in later paragraphs, where reporters include harder-hitting information.

There is no shortage of troubling anecdotes: A revealing story about Trump’s white-supremacist support that never ran in print. A dearth of stories about climate change and frightened immigrants. An email from Baker encouraging the staff not to mention the Muslim makeup of the countries when describing Trump’s immigration ban (partly rescinded after BuzzFeed disclosed the email). Glowing stories about Trump — “astonishing,” one longtime editor said — by a reporter who once tweeted a photo of herself smiling with Trump on his jet.

More generally, staffers are worried about Trump-Journal chumminess. Ivanka Trump was until recently a trustee of the Murdoch estate. In The Journal’s Washington bureau, eyebrows rose when Baker’s assistant called to ask how to send Trump a memento: a printing-press plate from an edition reporting his ascendance. (A spokeswoman said no plate was sent.)

The Journal’s opinion pages, of course, have long been conservative. And they have their own tensions: An editor critical of Trump was recently fired, . . .

Continue reading.

It’s essential that an authoritarian leader control the channels of public communication to deliver the messages he wants and—even more important—to repress the messages he wants to silence. Right now Trump has to simply denigrate the media and urge his followers to listen only to him, since he will tell it like it is, and then he spins these delusional fantasies of jobs returning, enemies within and without, and in general that everything is awful and only he, Donald Trump, can save them.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2017 at 5:50 pm

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