When media tycoon Rupert Murdoch gained enough support to acquire The Wall Street Journal’s parent company Dow Jones this summer, the media speculated frantically over what the move would mean for the venerable newspaper. Was the acquisition one more step towards Murdoch’s eventual media monopoly? Would the conservative mogul destroy The Journal’s objectivity? Would the acquisition spell the end of The Journal as we know it?
We find much of this hype is ill-reasoned. Murdoch is at heart a businessman and as The Journal’s owner, he will be primarily interested in its success. He will most likely be loath to tamper with or degrade a brand that has made its reputation by consistently providing quality journalism. The financial consequences of any intervention by Murdoch would simply be too great.
Yet the media’s rapt attention on Murdoch’s purchase does serve to highlight a growing fear among journalists and others that high quality, objective news sources will slowly vanish, in this age of new media, for lack of demand. The rise of blogs and news sources tailored to niche audiences, along with the decline of newspapers’ advertising-based business model and a burgeoning school of thought that dismisses even the possibility of objective journalism, have conspired to erode the bottom line at many newspapers and left many journalists waiting for a pink slip. Gloom and doom about the future of journalism has become the norm and, in the minds of many, Murdoch’s acquisition of Dow Jones is but another turn in journalism’s downward spiral.
While such fears are understandable, we believe that, in the long term, news sources that strive for objectivity (even if they occasionally fall short) will always be valued in American society more than blogs and pundits that spin facts but rarely report them. Murdoch’s acquisition of The Wall Street Journal will not change the public’s thirst for news.