I Have the World’s Smallest Violin

It turns out that the Wall Street Journal is having a bit of an existential crisis as its audience dies off.

It appears that there are not enough younger than me who are willing to tolerate their worst-in-the-nation editorial page, particularly given the internet options for near real-time financial news.

Additionally, there are increasing tensions between not just the news and the editorial sides, where frequently the new stories have contradicted the OP/ED narrative, but between the reporters and the editors in the news division.

I am amused:

A brutal internal Wall Street Journal report obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals how the 130-year-old broadsheet is struggling mightily in the current digital and cultural age — such as not covering racial issues because reporters are afraid to mention them to editors, playing to the limited interests of its aging core audience, at times losing more subscribers than it takes in, and favoring “a print edition that lands in the recycling bin.”

The crown jewel of Rupert Murdoch’s media company has weathered months of strife between its news and opinion sections. In July, the same month the report is dated, more than 280 staffers at the Journal and sister newsroom Dow Jones signed a letter to its publisher calling for clearer distinctions between the opinion and news. “Opinion’s lack of fact-checking and transparency, and its apparent disregard for evidence, undermine our readers’ trust and our ability to gain credibility with sources,” the letter said.

This week, the Journal’s news division ran a reported piece that knocked down claims published in an opinion section piece just hours earlier. The opinion piece was trying to connect the dots on a smear alleging corruption by former vice president Joe Biden just days before the presidential election.

This has happened routinely since well before Murdoch bought the paper.

The opinion section has always been dishonest and insane.

The report, which one person at the Journal said was sent to some editors but not the whole newsroom, argues that many of the Wall Street Journal’s editors do not understand the internet and its readers — focusing its content instead on its long-term older male subscribers, rather than on a growing younger audience key to its survival. (Read the report here.)


“This is a months-old draft that contains outdated and inaccurate information,” Journal Editor-in-Chief Matt Murray said in a statement, without detailing which elements he considers inaccurate. “The Wall Street Journal is experiencing tremendous digital growth in audience, advertising and subscriptions, in fact has hit new records, and we are more excited than ever about our future. We of course regularly discuss and explore what we are doing, and where we should be going. We have a strong foundation as the best source of business, markets and economics news in the world, and we are incredibly proud to serve all of our readers. Our imperative is to make that service even better, and make it available to ever more people around the world. And we will.”


The key recommendations include major changes to what the paper covers, how it covers topics, and a rethinking of how it ignores some audiences.

One damning example of how the wider newsroom’s failed to listen to Black readers and its own digital-forward staff came from a spring 2020 project with the National Bar Association, the largest organization for Black legal professionals in the country. New audiences chief Ebony Reed shared WSJ articles with the group and asked them what questions they wanted the outlet to answer. Stories sparked from readers’ questions during COVID-19 gained wide audiences and traffic, the report states.

When National Bar Association members responded, she shared those questions with other newsroom editors as possible story ideas. “Story ideas ranged from Black Americans dying at a higher rate from coronavirus to questions about how vaping would affect those who contracted COVID-19,” weeks before similar stories appeared in other publications. “None were acted on,” the report states.

Ignoring Black folk is a feature, not a bug of the Wall Street Journal.


To address those appetites, the report recommends beats that focus on the environment, career issues, consumer products, drug addiction, racism, healthcare affordability, income inequality, and violent crime. It acknowledges that such a shift may be jarring to many of the paper’s reporters and editors, who put a high priority on traditional coverage that they feel are core to the paper’s brand.

The first step is to start applying basic fact checking on the editorial page.

Once you do that, you will find that the entire paper will become more adventurous.


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