If you have any doubt that The Wall Street Journal is fast becoming steeped in the corporate culture of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NWS), I invite you to read a couple of quotations from today's news.
Here's Robert Thomson (pictured), the hand-picked editor Murdoch installed to run the Journal, dismissing the idea that changes he's made to the paper, most recently a beefed-up weekend lifestyle section, are aimed at stealing market share from The New York Times. "Nationally, there's no contest now," he told the Associated Press. "We're more than twice as big as The New York Times. They're not a serious competitor."
Now here's Brian Lewis, chief spokesperson for Fox News, responding to a claim that his network unfairly lumps NBC News in with its openly partisan sister channel, MSNBC. "NBC, and especially MSNBC, is not even a blip on our radar screen," Lewis told The Washington Post. "We don't care what they do."
It's a tactic straight out of Murdoch's Fleet Street handbook: Declare victory, however prematurely, and express nothing but contempt for the competition. Of course, it's utterly bogus. Bill O'Reilly may not savage Keith Olbermann and GE (GE) boss Jeffrey Immelt the way he used to, but behind the scenes, the Fox News PR machine remains on the lookout for any opportunity, however tiny, to stick it to NBC and MSNBC. (Don't forget that this rivalry has another front, with CNBC crushing fledgling Fox Business in the ratings as badly as Fox News crushes MSNBC.)
Likewise, Thomson and his boss are positively obsessed with putting the hurt on the Times, locally and nationally. But you needn't take my word for it. Just look at the speech Thomson gave when the Journal introduced its "Greater New York" section, which was almost entirely devoted to attacking the Gray Lady. Or recall that Thomson personally suggested using a photo of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to illustrate a story about men with feminine facial features.
I understand why Lewis engages in this kind of counterfactual posturing -- that's what he's paid to do. But Thomson is supposed to be a journalist, not a flack. Surely he could delegate the spinning to somebody else?