OLD Media Moves

Warren Phillips and the WSJ editorial page

May 16, 2019

Posted by Chris Roush

Robert W. Merry writes for The American Conservative about how former Dow Jones & Co. CEO Warren Phillips, who died last week at the age of 92, influenced The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page by naming Robert Bartley as editorial page editor.

Merry writes, “It wasn’t a popular decision. Alan Otten, the paper’s influential Washington bureau chief, lobbied strenuously against the appointment based on his view that Bartley was an ‘ideologue.’ Some members of the bureau came to regard Bartley as a ‘zealot’ and intellectually brash. Tensions between the editorial page and the Washington bureau festered throughout the 30-year Bartley tenure.

“But Phillips never wavered in his support for Bartley. When chided about it, he would often quote from a letter penned by Barney Kilgore, the Journal’s great leader from the previous generation. After a Dow Jones board member complained about the paper’s ‘right-wing’ views, Kilgore wrote to him: ‘The country has many newspapers and magazines expounding the liberal point of view. What it doesn’t need is a publication that hews to the middle of the road, writing ‘on the one hand’ this and ‘on the other hand’ that. It needs a publication that can articulate, with force and eloquence and in well-reasoned fashion, the conservative position and philosophy on issues before the country.’

“That’s what the Journal did throughout the 20th century and still does. But it’s interesting to note that, during this time, many newspapers and magazines with conservative traditions were abandoning their ideological moorings and joining the liberal pack. Robert McCormick’s Chicago Tribune, once a feisty voice of Midwest conservatism, transformed itself into something barely distinguishable from The New York Times. During the 1960s, when the Los Angeles Times embarked on its program to turn itself into a high-quality paper (wonderfully accomplished by Otis Chandler), it also abandoned its traditional conservatism and embraced a kind of rote liberalism.

“But the Journal remained true to its heritage, in large measure because of the devotion and fortitude of Warren Phillips and a few others.”

Read more here.

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