Long-form reporting drops at Wall Street Journal in Murdoch era

CJR | LBJ Library & Museum
Ryan Chittum used Factiva to graph the number of stories over 1,500 words in the Journal since Murdoch bought the paper in 2007.

Chittum found a precipitous drop in stories over 1,500 words on the front page (shown above) and throughout the paper. The drop was even steeper for 2,500-word Page One stories.

In an interview with Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith last week, former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller defended The Wall Street Journal’s news coverage as uncorrupted by political bias. But, he said, “they’ve cut back significantly on investigative reporting, which had been a mainstay of the Journal.” Keller continued:

Robert Thomson, who’s the [managing] editor, sort of famously issued an instruction upon taking office that he didn’t want any more of these stories that had the gestation period of a llama. I had to look it up. The gestation period of a llama is a year, and he didn’t want any more of those stories that took a year of a reporter’s time to actually deliver something he could put in the paper. I was joking around at that time that we had just published a series of articles by David Barstow that was a llama and a half. … I’m pro-llama.

Related: Salmon: “Very long stories are often highly self-indulgent, and they take a huge amount of time, effort, and money to put together.” (Reuters)

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  • http://twitter.com/DigitalDionne Dionne N. Walker

    Am I the only one questioning whether anyone other than reporters values long form reporting? 

  • Anonymous

    Thomson is generally right. A good way to unleash an investigative story is not all at once, after a year — but in droplets over a year. IMHO.