“Good journalism is an expensive commodity,” said Rupert Murdoch at a Federal Trade Commission conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Mr. Murdoch is ready to roll out a budget of $15 million for his new New York edition of The Wall Street Journal, an insider familiar with the project told The Observer.
The Journal is creating a section that will cover local politics, culture, news and sports. For the time being, the section’s launch is set for April. It is expected to run six days a week. It is not clear yet if the metro report will be a discrete section, or if an entirely different edition of the paper will be sold here.
The Journal has hired a former editor at The New York Sun, John Seeley, to run the project. He’s been taking interviews in recent weeks, looking for recruits.
“I’m not going to discuss anything at this point,” said Mr. Seeley on the phone from The Journal’s headquarters on Sixth Avenue on Tuesday.
Mr. Murdoch, who was an admirer of Mr. Seeley’s former paper, seems intent on creating a New York Sun on steroids. Certainly, a planned $15 million budget—which would go toward building a newsroom, a sales staff, a marketing team, the works—suggests the effort is a serious one.
Mr. Murdoch has been outspoken in his optimism for the future of journalism, but his goal for this project is specific.
“From the day he got the paper, he always wanted to direct aim at The Times,” said a source familiar with Mr. Murdoch’s thinking. “This is the only way to meet that challenge.”
The Times lost its stand-alone metro section a year ago, and has since been placed its metro content in the back pages of the A-section.
We sampled a few New York political consultants and one elected official to get their takes on what impact a solidly budgeted New York–edition Journal could have—and what that could mean for The Times.
“You could drive a truck through the space between the wonderfully titillating tabloids and the perceived self-seriousness of The Times,” said Stefan Friedman, a public-relations specialist at KnickerbockerSKD. “There is a need and a want.
“With the elimination of the metro section, space in The Times is extremely competitive,” he continued. “There are maybe eight stories in the metro section each day. Take away breaking news and you’re down to half that. That’s where you can reach lawmakers, and with the area being so crowded, [The Journal has] a real opportunity from the PR side.”
“It’s a great thing,” said Eric Schneiderman, a state senator from the city. “One of the things that is frustrating with Albany is that people downstate don’t know what we’re doing, and it’s hard to get attention for issues.”
“Given the withdrawal of serious news coverage of politics and government in the New York metro area, The Journal sees that there’s an opening, and if they go forward, they will fill that void,” said Bill Cunningham, a political consultant at DKC. “And they’ll be welcomed by many players in the government of this area.”
“In The Times there are three or four stories about state and city government, which is nothing like what they had when they had a metro section,” he continued. “It has really affected The Times: They decided to become a national newspaper. They gave up a lot of their New York identity.”
And the desire for more New York coverage is not limited to political circles, either.
Back in June, we spoke with Pia Catton, The Sun’s former culture editor—and current features editor at Politico—who said that a new, robust culture section could immediately make an impact.
“The Journal is making a very smart decision by focusing on New York. … The Times has gone wrong by covering arts nationally and casting the net so wide that they aren’t focused on New York anymore,” she said.
Let the broadsheet wars begin.
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