William Powers of The National Review writes Friday that The Wall Street Journal will cease being The Wall Street Journal that has a reputation for credibility and integrity if News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch acquires it — even if he does nothing to change the paper.
Powers wrote, “This is the paradox at the heart of the mogul’s pursuit of Dow Jones, and in particular The Journal: He is trying to buy something he literally cannot have, at any price. It’s impossible for Rupert Murdoch to own The Wall Street Journal because when his name is on the masthead, it will no longer be The Wall Street Journal, not really.
“Great newspapers are not like other assets. Accountants and financial advisers cannot tote up their value. They are more like works of art. People pay a lot of money for van Goghs and Picassos, but unless they are speculators, they don’t buy them for their monetary value. They buy them because they possess intrinsic qualities — beauty, intelligence, subtlety, depth — that are unique in all the world. Great paintings keep appreciating precisely because of this uniqueness, and so do great newspapers.
“However, newspapers do differ from artworks in one way. The owner of a painting has no effect on the work itself, assuming it is properly cared for and protected from physical harm. But because a newspaper is a human institution, it can change completely overnight, depending on the skills and values of the people who own it and put it out every day. Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal will be to today’s Wall Street Journal as a poster of a great painting is to the painting itself — an imitation, evocative of the original and perhaps even pleasant to have around. But not the real thing.”
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