Murdoch speaks to the staffers at the Wall Street Journal in December last year.
Their audience was of roughly three minds, according to a Journal staffer who dissected the newsroom’s mood for me. There were those who were already making plans to leave, or knew they would jump ship at the first decent opportunity. He called this group “the Extremists”; it included reporters like the Pulitzer-winning Bandler, who recently left for Fortune magazine. Then there were those who knew that the takeover could spell disaster for the kind of journalism they loved, but who were reluctant to believe that Murdoch would really dismantle something so admirable and successful. He called this group “the Hopefuls.”
“And then there was the third portion of the room,” he said. “This is a big group. These are the people who see the tribulations of the industry, who felt sure that if nothing had changed there would be certain cutbacks and layoffs in TheJournal’s future, who were feeling the general dread that all newsrooms in America feel right now. And they thought, Here’s an owner who is going to invest! My job is secure! He’ll beef up the paper, and even if this means we may become more like Fox News, it’s worth it because we will still have the opportunity to do great work. These are the people who believed that Marcus Brauchli would save them. This is the group that I call ‘Naive.’”
At the end of that session, with his typical insouciance, Murdoch again took the mike, to conclude the show.
“Well, I think that’s all we have to say,” he said. “So you better get back to work and make sure you’re not scooped tomorrow.”
As for the industry, Mark Bowden sums it up rather nicely:
Newspapers are in a sad way in America. Readership continues to fall. Advertisers are deserting them for newer forms of media. Revenues are plummeting, as the costs of printing and distribution mount catastrophically. Faced with declining profit margins, investors are fleeing. Knight Ridder, once the largest newpaper chain in America, has gone out of business. Stalwart family owners such as Dow Jones’s Bancrofts are selling out. Reporters and editors are being bought out or laid off in droves, and not just at small regional papers. The once-fat Los Angeles Times has been dismantling itself. The New York Times and The Washington Post are trimming their staffs. In the eyes of many media experts, print journalism, that stubborn 15th-century technology, appears at long last to be on its deathbed.