Hear that drum beating? That’s Rupert Murdoch, getting ready for war with Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
The Wall Street Journal is continuing to staff up its new New York edition, and the project increasingly is looking like a direct assault on The New York Times.
The Journal’s New York bureau, expected to launch on April 12, will be staffed with roughly three dozen staffers, three times more than the dozen or so the paper had planned for just three months ago. As we’ve reported, Mr. Murdoch has set aside a budget of $15 million for the project. There are plans for a daily stand-alone New York section, an Albany bureau, a City Hall bureau, a crime beat, a sports section and a culture section—in other words, a new, full-fledged New York paper, and one, incidentally, that is looking increasingly like the now defunct New York Sun.
The Journal’s bureau will be led by John Seeley, the former managing editor of The Sun. So far, he has hired Sun veterans including, scoopmeister Jacob Gershman, The Sun’s former local politics writer who has been writing a column for the New York Post and freelancing for New York magazine; Kate Taylor, a former arts writer for The Sun; Erica Orden, another former arts writer for The Sun; and Ryan Sager, a former features editor and editorial writer for the Sun. The paper has also hired the Daily News’ Michael Saul, who is something of a star on the local scene.
(Mr. Seeley did not respond to an email seeking comment, and a Journal spokesman declined to comment).
Without question, there’s a distinctly Sun-ny feel to the whole place. “What this proves is Murdoch has good taste,” deadpanned Seth Lipsky, the former editor of The Sun. “He knows his journalistic horseflesh.”
“I think it’s terrific he’s going to put out something on New York,” Mr. Lipsky continued. “Whether it’s his intention to create The New York Sun, I doubt it, but I don’t know.”
“They really liked The Sun’s arts coverage,” said a source familiar with the project. “They looked at the paper and wondered how they were weaker than The New York Times. And they said clearly the arts coverage. They think the Times coverage is too national. They figured if they replicated the Sun model they could beat The Times completely.”
And The Times might not be the only competition. There could be some scuffling inside The Journal’s offices, as well. Staffers for The Journal’s weekend section are beginning to wonder if they’re going to face competition from the bureau’s new arts coverage.
One new staffer for the New York bureau—and a former Sun staffer—has been telling sources on the phone that “she’s coming along to break news, and the New York bureau will put a premium on breaking news, and it’s not a particular focus here now,” said one weekend staffer.
Naturally, it hasn’t made the weekend staffers entirely comfortable. “They’re not exactly building up goodwill,” said the staffer.
Let the turf wars begin.