Bryan Caplan: The Secrets of the Special Interests
links for 2007-05-15

Ezra Klein on the Wall Street Journal

Ezra Klein thinks the Wall Street Journal is a national treasure:

Ezra Klein: News to Me: The Wall Street Journal barely turns a profit?  I knew things weren't looking up, but I thought the Journal was in the general, well-populated class of newspapers with diminishing prospects but still healthy profits.... As for Rupert Murdoch's attempt to purchase [it]... William Powers nicely captured the lunacy of all the business media types who are going around and writing about how it wouldn't be such a bad idea....

One of the miracles of The Journal has been how consistently excellent it remained -- brave, principled, beautifully written and edited -- despite frequently daft corporate oversight. In short, it has been a mediocre business but a terrific news outlet. It does not follow that the best way to fix this imbalance is to reverse it, by selling one of the world's great newspapers to a man who, in order to keep making his piles, is almost certain to undermine many of the things that made the paper great in the first place....

The Journal isn't perfect -- the editorial pages have done real harm to American politics, and a paper that wants to cover the business world in all of its dimensions might want to give some serious thought to a labor beat... but it's a journalistic prize nonetheless, and it would almost certainly be ruined with Murdoch running it.

I'm not so sure. Murdoch could easily and quickly ruin the news operation--and we would have to rely on the FT and hope the Economist gets its act back together. That would be a shame, but it would also diminish the influence of the truly mendacious editorial operation, which defies explanation. Once you take that into account, is the result a net minus for the country and the world? Probably. I'm not entirely sure.

One of the most amusing lunches of my life came when I was seated back to a table at which Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) and Judd Greg (R-NH) began speculating on the source of the hold that Robert Bartley at the WSJ editorial page had over his bosses for him to be allowed to continue his operation. They settled on "pictures; some very interesting pictures..."