Thursday, May 20, 2010

War At The Wall Street Journal Inside the Struggle to Control An American Business Empire by Sarah Ellison

War At The Wall Street Journal Inside the Struggle to Control An American Business Empire by Sarah Ellison

Sarah Ellison used to work for the Wall Street Journal before News Corp's takeover of the journal. She wrote this book using a compilation of interviews and newspaper stories. The book feels like you are at many of the reconstructed conversations and deals inside the book. It also describes the people very well; the Bancroft family, the Hill Family, Rupert Murdoch, Peter Kann, Marty Lipton, and others.

This book is a story of deal making and business politics. Sarah Ellison is describing conversations in board rooms, corporate jets, on cell phones, in restaurants, and in private conference rooms. There are no complex charts, managerial theories, or financial figures. We get to read the good and bad characteristics of the people involved; hatreds, rivalries, obsequiousness, personal habits, and fallibilities of some of the most powerful people in the news business.

Sarah Ellison describes the internal workings of the merger between Newscorp and Dow Jones. The focus is on the changes in editorial control and style in the Wall Street Journal. We get to read about how Rupert Murdoch fires and hires people to remake the paper into a different kind of newspaper. Rupert Murdoch's goal is to counter the New York Times by remaking the paper from a conservative business paper into a more national right wing paper which covers politics and culture in addition to business.

She also tells the story of a family in conflict, the Bancroft family who had owned the Dow Jones company for 105 years. It describes how the rise of Google and Yahoo and other new media companies drove down the price of newspaper stocks and caused consolidation in the industry. Rupert Murdoch basically offered more than any other company to take control of Dow Jones.

The story is intriguing. If you want to understand how the news is becoming more polarized between left and right, this book shows how Rupert Murdoch works. It describes a very antagonistic style of news and politics. I found the focus on people and deal making to be different than most business books. There is a very extensive index and notes at the end of the book. The implications of this story are still unfolding.

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