Joe’s “Mea Culpa” (Update)
Joe Nocera bewails, in Italianate fashion, the “Fox-ification” of the once great Wall Street Journal. He also confesses his own well-intentioned, but in hindsight, rather naive optimism in the matter.
To tell you the truth, I’m hanging my head in shame too. Four years ago, when Murdoch was battling recalcitrant members of the Bancroft family to gain control of The Journal, which he had long lusted after and which he viewed as the vehicle that would finally allow him to go head-to-head against The New York Times, I wrote several columns saying that he would be a better owner than the Bancrofts.
The Bancrofts’ history of mismanagement had made The Journal vulnerable in the first place. I thought that Murdoch’s resources would stop the financial bleeding, and that his desire for a decent legacy would keep him from destroying a great newspaper.
After the family agreed to sell to him, Elisabeth Goth, the brave Bancroft heir who had long tried to get her family to fix the company, told me, “He has a tremendous opportunity, and I don’t think he’s going to blow it.” In that same column, I wrote, “The chances of Mr. Murdoch wrecking The Journal are lower than you’d think.”
Joe’s many admirers will note that, being the liturgically correct guy that he is, he forbears intoning the triple “mea culpa” until its official inauguration with the First Sunday of Advent.
Giving the Journal its say:
Our readers can decide if we are a better publication than we were four years ago, but there is no denying that News Corp. has invested in the product. The news hole is larger. Our foreign coverage in particular is more robust, our weekend edition more substantial, and our expansion into digital delivery ahead of the pack. The measure that really matters is the market’s, and on that score Mr. Hinton was at the helm when we again became America’s largest daily.
Phone-hacking is deplorable, and we assume the guilty will be prosecuted. More fundamentally, the News of the World’s offense—fatal, as it turned out—was to violate the trust of its readers by not coming about its news honestly. We realize how precious that reader trust is, and our obligation is to re-earn it every day.
The rest is here.