‘WSJ’ Biz Coverage Down 50% Since Murdoch Purchase

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By: Joe Strupp

Since Rupert Murdoch took over The Wall Street Journal, the paper has seen a marked increase in political and general interest coverage and a decrease in business reporting, which is down more than 50%, according to a new study released Thursday.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism contends that since Murdoch finalized his purchase of Dow Jones & Co. in late 2007, the paper has seen such a shift.

“Many people expected Rupert Murdoch to be an activist owner when he bought the Wall Street Journal last year. So what?s happened to the paper under his tenure?” a release on the report asked. “A PEJ study finds that under the new regime, there?s a lot less business and a lot more Beltway.”

PEJ examined the Journal’s front pages from every other weekday edition between Dec. 13, 2007, and March 13, 2008, to determine if the paper?s agenda had changed, the report said.

Among its findings:

? “Business coverage dropped more than half — falling from 30% in the months prior to the sale to 14%.”

? “In the first four months of Murdoch?s ownership, the Journal has shifted its focus, opting for less business coverage and for more coverage of national politics and international issues.”

? “Politics and campaign coverage more than tripled from December 2007 to March 2008, reaching 18% of the newshole compared to 5% in the months before the takeover.”

? “A comparison of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times front pages suggests the editorial competition is largely in the area of politics.”

A Journal spokesperson had no immediate response when sought for comment.

“Under the Murdoch regime, the single biggest change in front-page coverage occurred with politics and the presidential campaign,” the report stated, adding, “Since the front page has a finite amount of space, that increase in political coverage seems to have come largely at the expense of business news.”

“Among the other notable gainers in the Murdoch era is coverage of foreign events that do not directly involve the U.S., which jumped to 25% from 18%. (Roughly one third of that (9%) is related to overseas economic and business affairs.) Coverage of government also increased a bit, up to 4% from 3%,” the study found. “Aside from the business beat, other subjects that experienced drops in coverage under Murdoch include health and medicine, which fell to less than 1% from 5%. Transportation issues fell to 0% on the days studied from 3%. And the environment dropped to 1% from 3%.

“Several key categories appeared unchanged. Economics?which includes the faltering U.S. economy, the mortgage crisis and other macro concerns? remained at 15%. Coverage of foreign events in which the U.S. played a major role has been steady at 4%, as has lifestyle coverage (about 4%) and education (3%),” the report stated.

The study cited the Journal’s April 21 front page, a day before the Pennsylvania primary, as an example of the shift, stating: “The paper led with a package of two campaign stories under the headline, ‘Latest Attacks Roil Democrats.’ One story recalled Barack Obama?s political education as a Chicago politician and the other chronicled the growing concerns of Democratic Party leaders about the bitter primary battle. A more traditional Journal story?chronicling problems at smaller-to-midsize banks?sat at the bottom half of the page where it shared space with a piece about easing tensions between China and a small island controlled by Taiwan.”

The full report can be found at: www.journalism.org


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