I'm in the news business. This is a right-wing attack job.
In my professional judgment the WSJ used to be the best, most reliable news source in English. Then Murdoch took over, and turned it into a right-wing propaganda sheet. It was a tragedy. This crowd-sourcing of Hillary's emails is maybe the worst example of their partisan bias and seeking sensationalism.
I read the WSJ daily for 40 years (along with the New York Times, Washington Post, and professional magazines like Science and JAMA). I used to pick up their stories, and interview the same people they interviewed.
I knew reporters who wrote for the WSJ. I believed, and most journalists I knew agreed, that the WSJ was the best newspaper in the English language. The reason I liked it was that the news sections were as objective and fact-checked as humanly possible, and one of the few publications not influenced by advertisers and political pressure from the publisher. They really were fair and balanced.
The WSJ's defining moment was in the 1950s when they got leaked photos of the new model GM cars, which were a big trade secret. GM threatened to cancel their advertising if they published it. The WSJ told them to fuck off. Newspapers didn't do that. It was a long time before they accepted GM's advertising again.
An editor at McGraw-Hill once told me that if he picked up a story from the NYT, he would have to check it for accuracy, but if he picked up a story from the WSJ, he could take a chance without checking because he could depend on them to get it right.
If I read a story in the WSJ, I could depend on them getting everything right. (The quick formula is, get all sides; and especially if you attack somebody, get their side too.)
I remember one story on welfare reform in California in which the reporter quoted everybody, from the governor's assistant in charge of welfare, to the supervisors, to the caseworkers, to several welfare mothers. The story made it clear that welfare "reform" wasn't working, merely harassing welfare recipients and making it harder for them to get back on their feet.
A. Kent Macdougal was a WSJ reporter until he retired to teach journalism. He wrote an article in Monthly Review, the marxist magazine, about his experience. (Can't find it online, sorry.) He said that in his career in the WSJ, he could write whatever he wanted, as long as he followed the formula for getting all sides and supporting every statement with documented facts, even though he was a socialist who was criticizing the capitalist system in the WSJ's own pages. The WSJ was one of the few places where you could read news stories that actually criticized the American free-market system, and stood up to companies like GM. I follow health care and drugs, and the WSJ published some of the great exposes of drug companies and the medical establishment.
The ironic thing about the WSJ was that they had a very liberal news section, and a very right wing editorial page. I used to enjoy the editorial page because every day they would publish a tightly-argued, logical, well-documented right wing argument, and I would have to figure out where they made their mistake. Sometimes I had to agree that they were right, and they changed my mind. That's a good editorial page. However, there was a sharp division between the editorial section and the news section.
When Rupert Murdoch bought the WSJ, it was a tragedy for journalism and even for democracy, because the WSJ was the best thing you could read to be an informed citizen and voter.
Ironically, the best business story the WSJ ever did was their coverage of the takeover of their own newspaper by News Corporation. They gave the whole background of the ownership and control of the WSJ, and how the older generation of the Bancroft (sp?) family was committed to the mission of great journalism, but the younger generation just wanted to get higher dividends. And some of those editors and reporters, who knew they would be leaving, gave the best story ever of how unethical and contemptible Murdoch was. For example, he agreed to kill News Corporation's coverage of China's human rights abuses in order to get his satellite system into China.
When Murdoch took over, my journalistic instinct was to try to be fair to the guy and see whether he would actually destroy the WSJ as people feared. Unfortunately our worst fears were right. I could see in the paper that they were changing the way they covered stories. Instead of objective stories that quoted all sides, they started taking sides -- on the right. It was like the old cold war comic book, "What would America be like if the Communists took over?" with the right wing instead of Communists.
I remember one story, about worker's disability payments, where they went through an entire database and found the one federal disability judge who was most generous to applicants, and did an expose on him. He retired. But they didn't follow up with disabled workers who were unfairly denied claims, as the old WSJ used to. The old WSJ used to be fair and get both sides.
Here's a story from the NYT that documents pretty well how the WSJ has gone from the most respected, objective news source to a Republican propaganda organ. Now when (if) I read a WSJ story, I have to ask myself, "What did they leave out because the publisher, or some big business like GM, didn't like it?" like any other newspaper.
Under Murdoch, Tilting Rightward at The Journal
By DAVID CARR
New York Times,
December 13, 2009
A little over a year ago, Robert Thomson, The Journal’s top editor, picked Gerard Baker, a columnist for The Times of London, as his deputy managing editor. Mr. Baker is a former Washington bureau chief of The Financial Times with a great deal of expertise in the Beltway. The two men came of age in the more partisan milieu of British journalism.
According to several former members of the Washington bureau and two current ones, the two men have had a big impact on the paper’s Washington coverage, adopting a more conservative tone, and editing and headlining articles to reflect a chronic skepticism of the current administration. And given that the paper’s circulation continues to grow, albeit helped along by some discounts, there’s nothing to suggest that The Journal’s readers don’t approve.
Mr. Baker, a neoconservative columnist of acute political views, has been especially active in managing coverage in Washington, creating significant grumbling, if not resistance, from the staff there. Reporters say the coverage of the Obama administration is reflexively critical, the health care debate is generally framed in terms of costs rather than benefits — “health care reform” is a generally forbidden phrase — and global warming skeptics have gotten a steady ride. (Of course, objectivity is in the eyes of the reader.)
The pro-business, antigovernment shift in the news pages has broken into plain view in the last year. On Aug. 12, a fairly straight down the middle front page article on President Obama’s management style ended up with the provocative headline, “A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough?” The original article included a contrast between President Jimmy Carter’s tendency to go deep in the weeds of every issue with President George W. Bush’s predilection for minimal involvement, according to someone who saw the draft. By the time the article ran, it included only the swipe at Mr. Carter.
On Aug. 27, a fairly straightforward obituary about Ted Kennedy for the Web site was subjected to a little political re-education on the way to the front page. A new paragraph was added quoting Rush Limbaugh deriding what he called all of the “slobbering media coverage,” and he also accused the recently deceased senator of being the kind of politician who “uses the government to take money from people who work and gives it to people who don’t work.”
On Oct. 31, an article on the front of the B section about estate taxes at the state level used the phrase “death tax” six times, but there were no quotation marks around it. A month later, the newspaper’s Style & Substance blog suggested that the adoption of such a loaded political term was probably not a good idea: “Because opponents of estate taxes have long referred to them as death taxes, the term should be avoided in news stories.”