Tears: Real and Crocodile
Like most dotCommonweal readers, I try to practice the Catholic principle of "both/and" (or, on alternate days, yin and yang). Hence I subscribe to both Commonweal and First Things; both the NYT and the WSJ.
In my view, the Journal actually shows a greater differentiation between its news reporting and its editorial analysis than does the Times.
In any case, the drama, turned soap opera, of the battle for control of the Journal has seemingly reached its denouement with the agreement by the Bancroft family to accept Rupert Murdoch's offer-that-couldn't-be-refused.
The editorial in today's Journal says in part:
Both the New York Times and the Financial Times have been especially aggressive in assailing the potential News Corp. purchase of the Journal. These also happen to be the two publications that Mr. Murdoch has explicitly said he might invest more to compete against. Readers can judge if the tears these papers and their writers claim to shed for the Journal's future are real, or of the crocodile variety.
The nastiest attacks have come from our friends on the political left. They can't decide whose views they hate most--ours, or Mr. Murdoch's. We're especially amused by those who say Mr. Murdoch might tug us to the political left. Don't count on it. More than one liberal commentator has actually rejoiced at the takeover bid, on the perverse grounds that this will ruin the Journal's news coverage, which in turn will reduce the audience for the editorial page. Don't count on that either.
Such an expectation overlooks that the principle of "free people and free markets" promoted in these columns has an appeal far beyond this newspaper. We fill a market niche for such commentary that is too little met by other newspapers and media outlets. But we have every confidence that if we vanished, or let our standards fall, the marketplace would find an alternative. What ultimately matters are the ideas, and their basic truth.
As for the Journal news coverage, the critics insult the standards and culture of our reporters and editors. They aren't potted plants who will abandon the habits of a lifetime because someone else owns Dow Jones. Yes, we all must adapt to the new ways in which readers want to receive business and political news. But to claim that the Journal will cease being a credible source of such news is to malign the integrity of 700 career professionals.
On this point, readers also shouldn't misinterpret the "editorial independence" agreement between Mr. Murdoch and the Bancrofts. This isn't intended to be some heat shield protecting Journal editors from their new owner. We know enough about capitalism to know that there is no separating ownership and control. We see the editorial agreement, instead, as an expression of Mr. Murdoch's intention to maintain the values and integrity of the Journal. His invitation to have a member of the Bancroft family join the News Corp. board is a similar gesture of good faith.
The ultimate verdict on the new Journal era will of course be rendered by you, our readers. We realize that skepticism about media today is rampant, and rightly so. In journalism, building trust is a daily and relentless business. For our part today, we can only say that we intend to stand for the same beliefs tomorrow and into the future as we have for a century
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.