The Wall Street Journal, whether you agree with its conservative politics or not, gets respect from lefties as well as right-wingers for its integrity and solid business reporting. The mere mention of a company's name in the WSJ can spell glory or doom, especially for younger businesses.
The offer from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to purchase the Dow Jones company and therefore the Wall Street Journal leads to serious questions about the long term viability of the WSJ as well as the short term impact the Murdoch could have on the economy, depending on how paranoid you want to be.
If you are not familiar with the amount of influence that the WSJ wields as well as the respect it commands, I seriously recommend you read the book about the history of the publication. The text is clearly out of date, but it gives you a very good feel about who and what the WSJ really is. In my job as an analyst and as a journalist, I have dealt with business executives at just about every level and at most of the major technology companies. These executives read the WSJ, as do many of their direct management reports. They take the WSJ much more seriously than virtually any other newspaper publication.
By some accounts Murdoch seems to be a champion of the journalist and a fan of a competitive news environment. However, I don't think that the picture is that rosy. Some of the antics of Murdoch's Fox News enter into the realm of the dubious and often the outrageous. Fox New's "Fair and Balanced" slogan is a classic example of say one thing, do another.
Murdoch's ownership of the WSJ could give him a business bully pulpit to spew his political agenda that would have an impact as large as or greater than Fox News. There are also downsides that could affect the WSJ as well. Any attempt to share content, co-brand, or in anyway associate the WSJ with Fox News will degrade the WSJ. It would be only natural that Murdoch uses the WSJ to elevate the stature of Fox News, but this could mean the end of the WSJ as one of the most respected media organizations. Considering the low public opinion of the media already, I cannot see the loss of the Journal's prestige as being a good thing.
In addition to this, Dow Jones also owns the less prestigious but still important Barron's. It would give Murdoch control of two of the top financial/business publications and a blank check to meddle. Lastly, Dow Jones most visible product is the Dow Jones Industrial Averages, a measure of the American stock market that is taken for Gospel in regards to the health of the economy. To quote the www.djindexes.com web site " The Dow Jones Industrial, Transportation and Utility Averages are maintained and reviewed by editors of The Wall Street Journal."
There are those who have suggested that by manipulating the companies listed in the DJIA it would be an easy way for Murdoch to give the politicians he supports the gift of a soaring stock market, at least on its face. However, considering the venerable nature of the DJIA and the number of eyes on the companies contained therein, I find that to be an unlikely circumstance to say the least. Still, the DJIA gives Murdoch yet another potential way to push his particular view via his media empire.
So where does this possible purchase leave us? The Dow Jones company holds an inordinate amount of influence, which is something I have never been comfortable with. Yet Dow Jones is the devil I know, and the devil I can to some respect predict. Rupert Murdoch may not be the kind of man that uses his influence to corrupt the WSJ, the DJIA, and Barron's, but considering the nature of his Fox News organization I can't say that in my heart I believe that to be true.
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