By paulgillin | August 2, 2007 - 5:27 am - Posted in Journalism, Newspapers

The New York Observer has an excellent piece about the gallows humor that set in at The Wall Street Journal during the Murdoch negotiations. Journalists are a cynical bunch, of course, so it’s not surprising they saw the worst possible outcome of the deal and also invented some of the cleverest sarcastic devices to describe it. The question is whether this will be a watershed event in journalism. Murdoch properties aren’t known for editorial excellence so much as for sensationalism and right-wing politics. While the Journal has always been politically conservative, it has never let its editorial page openly influence its news coverage. Will all that change under Murdoch?

To read the Observer piece, you’d think the reporters at the Journal are all about to abandon ship, but my experience is that journalists generally see most glasses as half empty to begin with. If there are large-scale defections at the paper, it will become apparent over a period of 12-18 months. If that happens, it will be interesting to see what new management comes in to run the newsroom and whether the Journal‘s austere, highly formatted news pages begin to change. That’s what makes this a potential watershed. If the Journal loses the reputation for editorial excellence that it has enjoyed for some 50 years, we will all be the worse for that.

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