Good for the WSJ

What’s with all the ruckus about the WSJ cutting back on its front-page stories about the rebranding of Providence, RI?

Robert Thomsen said back in December that “Certain U.S. newspapers have been designed for journalists rather than for readers.” It wasn’t clear whether he was referring to the Journal, as Liza Featherstone notes in this piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, but, uh, he was. Featherstone goes on to criticize Thomsen’s assessment (via Romenesko), arguing that the Journal “is abandoning values that have long distinguished it: a commitment to deep reporting and elegant writing.”

But distinguished it in the minds of whom, exactly? Journalists. I love the front page stories on what the number of clotheslines hanging in neighborhoods says about our society. But I don’t subscribe to the Journal. My uncle does. He works in business and he reads it, yes, because it is well-written and deeply reported. But more importantly, he reads it because it gives him the information he needs to effectively keep abreast of the financial and business worlds.

Thomsen is right here. Some magazines and newspapers may be perfectly suited to appeal to journalists and writerly-types – The Atlantic comes to mind. But that’s their audience. The WSJ would be silly to slash its financial reporting for the sake of some elegant story-telling.


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