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Weekly reads from CJR for October 21, 2021

Adam Piore on the Wall Street Journal

For decades, employees of the Wall Street Journal have complained about leaps of logic and reckless ideology in the opinion section. Recently, when Adam Piore spoke with some fifty current and former staffers, they expressed frustration, too, with the conservatism of the Journal’s news coverage. Editors modulate the tone of political stories and set limits on subject matter, Piore learned; management seems intent on catering to the paper’s traditional audience—predominantly white and male, more than half over the age of fifty-eight. Stories on the Trump administration were sympathetic; coverage of Biden has been inconsistent. “We cover race insofar as it’s not a comparison and it won’t offend our white readers,” a Journal reporter said. “We’ll write a story that says Latinos are buying more homes. But we won’t write a story saying sellers are more willing to sell to white buyers.” 

Matt Murray, the editor of the Journal, denied that editors wield excessive influence on coverage. Editorially, he told Piore, “we’ve got a very strong culture. We discuss. We debate. We talk about issues of fairness. We talk about issues of balance.” He believes the paper’s standards are strong, even as “some other publications have gone too far off the rails,” and said that he views objectivity “as being like salvation.” His strategy—shaped with Almar Latour, the CEO of Dow Jones & Company and the Journal's publisher—is to focus on service journalism that helps people navigate decisions in “business, finance, and life.” But will that enable the paper to reach a broader audience? “At a moment when just about every other news outlet, it seems, is questioning its conventions and seeking to start a new chapter, the Journal has dug in its heels,” Piore writes. If it stubbornly refuses to change, “in the long term, its influence may fade alongside its geriatric readership.” —Betsy Morais, managing editor

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