The Wall Street Journal's abrupt change of top editors has journalism followers wondering what the future holds for Rupert Murdoch's prestigious business newspaper.
WSJ veteran Matt Murray will replace Gerard Baker as editor, the newspaper unexpectedly announced on Tuesday. Murray takes over Monday, while Baker will write a weekend column and host a TV show and special events.
In an article on the shakeup, chief WSJ rival The New York Times noted that Baker had upset the WSJ newsroom with claims that articles were unfair to Donald Trump. The Times noted that a number of reporters had left the newspaper during Baker's reign, heading to the Times or the Washington Post.
While former Journal reporters shared in a Washington Post Pulitzer Prize, the WSJ won only one under Baker. Its coverage of the Thanatos scandal took a Polk award, but not a Pulitzer, which it deserved.
Baker also had to deal with declining ad revenue, reducing the number of sections. He's also led the newspaper's efforts to increase its online readership.
The WSJ ran a terse announcement of the change, placed inside its second section, while the Times played its more detailed article on the Business section's front page. The articles showed s subtle difference in the newspapers' cultures: The Times identified Murray formally as Matthew J. Murray, while the WSJ called him Matt.
Murray brings a more American outlook to the WSJ, with degrees from Northwestern University in Chicago. Baker was a British native, educated at Oxford, illustrating Murdoch's background in the London newspaper world.
Despite the unrest under Baker, and the erosion of staff, the WSJ still puts out a strong newspaper, with excellent foreign and national coverage. The WSJ often runs articles not found in the Times, and its stories are more concise and more clearly written. The WSJ also shows more journalistic flair with its presentation.
I particularly like its stand-alone photos from around the country and world. On Wednesday, the Journal showed this skill with a delightful shot of a young boy with an intertube leaping into a river in Texas. The WSJ often runs such photos that confirm the old cliche of a picture being worth a thousand words.
The newspaper's cutbacks have brought a falloff in the in-depth business coverage that once was the Journal's hallmark. I rarely see the revealing features on companies that once enlivened the paper.
While still worth perusing, the WSJ's weekend Review and Off-Duty sections have grown stale, with fewer stories that give readers surprise and delight. The WSJ recently beefed up its Saturday business section, with uneven results so far.
The Murray regime will bring no changes to the Journal's editorial and op-ed pages, known for their slavish support of Trump except his protectionist trade policies. The Journal also is a vehicle for shaky right-wing propaganda. Strengths are its daily book reviews, and columns such as Andy Kessler's and Bob Greene's.
Now the Murray era begins, with unsettling prospects for the WSJ's print newspaper.