By:
April 12, 2021

There were a few notable stories about newspapers over the weekend that are worth your time.

The most buzz came from The New York Times’ Edmund Lee, who wrote, “Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal.” In his piece, Lee examines the brewing rivalry between Journal publisher Almar Latour and editor Matt Murray.

Lee wrote, “The two men have never gotten along, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Or as an executive who knows both well put it, ‘They hate each other.’ The digital strategy report has only heightened the strain in their relationship — and, with it, the direction of the crown jewel in the Murdoch news empire. Their longstanding professional rivalry comes down to both personality and approach. Mr. Murray is more deliberative, while Mr. Latour is quick to act. But the core of their friction is still a mystery, according to people familiar with them.”

There is also a struggle within the news organization about its coverage. Lee wrote, “Now a special innovation team and a group of nearly 300 newsroom employees are pushing for drastic changes at the paper, which has been part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since 2007. They say The Journal, often Mr. Murdoch’s first read of the day, must move away from subjects of interest to established business leaders and widen its scope if it wants to succeed in the years to come. The Journal of the future, they say, must pay more attention to social media trends and cover racial disparities in health care, for example, as aggressively as it pursues corporate mergers.”

Lee has a lot more details about the Journal’s internal struggles. It’s a fascinating read full of well-reported specifics.

The other two stories are The New York Times’ Nicholas Kulish with “Why Buy a Yacht When You Can Buy a Newspaper?” And The Wall Street Journal’s Lukas I. Alpert with “Alden Clashes With Billionaire Over Future of Tribune — and of Local News.”

Both stories look at the possible sale of Tribune Publishing, although Kulish’s story also delves into billionaires buying newspapers. The most notable example of that is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post, but there are other examples, too. Red Sox owner John Henry bought The Boston Globe, physician Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times and businessman and sports owner Glen Taylor bought The Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Kulish wrote, “From Utah to Minnesota and from Long Island to the Berkshires, local grandees have decided that a newspaper is an essential part of the civic fabric. Their track records as owners are somewhat mixed, but mixed in this case is better than the alternative.”

Not that billionaires buying newspapers always goes smoothly, but a billionaire owner with cash to burn and a belief in the cause of newspapers is always more preferable than a chain or, especially, a hedge fund such as Alden. And it’s certainly more preferable than a newspaper shutting down altogether.

This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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