It’s not quite a manifesto but it is as clear a declaration of purpose as readers and staff of the Wall Street Journal could hope for at this point. In a nearly 1,700-word letter for the Aug. 1 edition published online tonight, WSJ Publisher Gordon Crovitz, who rose from the newsroom to president of the Dow Jones Consumer Media Group, uses the backdrop of history to set the stage for coming months, and, possibly, the future. When Crovitz tells readers it’s journalism as usual, it’s no stretch to read it as an open letter to Rupert Murdoch as well. (Pic on the right: Crovitz speaking at our December NYC mixer last year)
DJ’s value: One constant theme: if DJ weren’t already of value, Murdoch and News Corp. wouldn’t want it. While Crovitz keys on the journalistic value, he also stresses the changes that have been made already and the value as a business. “We have a record number of paying subscribers to the print and online Journal; the Journal franchise remains the leading outlet for business advertisers; and people now get our news from many new-media outlets. In a digital world where the best brands have the best opportunities, the sizable offer by News Corp. is a reminder that value goes to those who apply great brands to changing technologies for the benefit of consumers.”
Online Journal: Not sure how many readers recall that Murdoch has suggested online access should be free, leaving the future of the subscription online Journal a little in doubt for now. Crovitz makes a case for the model: “We project that WSJ.com will soon reach the milestone of one million paying subscribers. More people now read the Journal throughout the day: Some 40 percent of print subscribers have access to the online Journal, double the proportion of two years ago.” He mentions the 30-plus percent increase in operating income for the Consumer Media group. But, he admits, News Corp.’s ownership could provide “even more potential … greater distribution globally, including via broadcasting, cable and satellite operations. … investment.”
A key passage: “While the importance of the continued integrity of our journalism cannot be overstated, some of the concerns raised about the acquisition have been illegitimate — and could wrongly impugn the Journal. One is the notion that somehow ownership could be separated from control. As owner, Mr. Murdoch will be fully accountable for the company, from the credibility of its brands to its financial performance. This is a strong protection for readers because it’s the reputation of our journalism that drives so much of the value of Dow Jones. Also, some of the criticism of News Corp. has suggested that honest journalism cannot be done with an owner whose political views are often considered to be conservative. This reflects a bias of its own that I hope readers of all political views will reject.”
Special committee: Crovitz outlines the special committee agreed on by Rupert Murdoch and the Bancrofts and reiterates what has already been public, that the top editors of the Journal and Dow Jones Newswires will remain in their jobs under terms of the agreement.