The Wall Street Journal-New York Times death match has grown even fiercer during the Trump presidency's chaotic start.
Following WSJ editor Gerard Baker's appearance before his ruffled news staff to answer complaints he's sought to soften the WSJ's Trump coverage, Times op-ed columnist and futurist David Leonhardt set on Tuesday his sights on the WSJ's turmoil.
Recently, longtime WSJ news executive Rebecca Blumenstein leaped to the Times, shocking NYC media insiders. Blumenstein, credited with strengthening the WSJ's general news coverage under Rupert Murdoch, will ostensibly bolster the Times' business coverage. She also adds a needed woman's name to the Times masthead. I hope she fosters better writing and informational layouts, WSJ strengths.
Despite trepidation that Murdoch would ruin the WSJ when he bought the paper a few years ago, he strengthened its coverage. The paper kept its base in business news and branched out to excellent national, international, sports and cultural coverage. Its international stories frequently scooped the Times, and the clear, objective writing and accessible layouts made complex issues understandable.
Just before Trump took office, Baker reduced its news and cultural coverage, citing ad-revenue declines. After Trump's ascendancy, the newspaper has sunk even further. WSJ reporters grew upset over Baker-ordered editorial changes that "took the edge" off Trump reports.
The WSJ editorial page has performed even worse during the Trump debacle. While WSJ columnist Brent Stephens has courageously kept the heat on Trump, the WSJ editorials and op-ed pieces have used convoluted, duplicitous writing to support Trump 's and the GOP's most egregious actions. The WSJ editorial page takes me back to the old Frank Zappa classic, "Let's Make the Water Turn Black."
Meanwhile, as I mentioned earlier, the Times has staunchly taken on the Trump administration and the GOP congress with daily well-reasoned, fact-based editorials.
Pardon my condescension, but I doubt that many in Trump's red-state uneducated base reads the Times or Journal. Like their fearless leader, they get their news from online rumors, Murdoch's Fake, er, Fox News, and alt right fantasies..
Murdoch's WSJ and the Sulzberger family's Times have great influence beyond New York and Washington. Business, government and cultural leaders in bigger cities like Chicago, LA and Dallas to midlevel ones like San Antonio and Nashville at least glance at the papers each day.
Both papers struggle with the decline of the traditional print model and shifting to economically viable online publication. Trump's hostility to the media has boomeranged into strengthening the Times, which has enjoyed a huge increase in its online subscriptions. The same boost is likely true for the WSJ. Baker expressed concern that the WSJ would be hurt if readers sense unfairness to Trump.
The battle is a microcosm of America's divided nation. How it plays out will refllect America's future.