There's a newspaper war brewing in Manhattan, as the Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is starting a local news section to compete with the Times for the New York City market. The upcoming battle royale made the front of Monday's Business Day in a preview by Richard Perez-Pena, "Wall Street Journal Aims to Win Over The Times's Local Audience." Perez-Pena found that for Murdoch, "newspapering is a blood sport." But is the Wall Street Journal the only one out for blood?
Maybe newspapers really are dying, as some media analysts have been predicting for decades, but apparently that does not apply to newspaper wars. A doozy is shaping up at the moment between The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
In an attempt to eat into The Times's mass-market audience and lure away some of its luxury advertisers, The Journal has already edged away from its traditional role as a national business paper, adding a daily sports page and a bimonthly magazine, strengthening foreign and Washington coverage and shifting the mix of articles on its front page.
Now The Journal, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, is making its biggest and most audacious move yet away from its roots, starting up a local news section for New York to compete directly with The Times for affluent, general interest metropolitan readers and the high-end advertisers who covet them.
What is puzzling to analysts and industry executives - including some within the News Corporation - is that none of this makes much sense as a business proposition to aid The Journal, especially at a time when newspapers are struggling through a long-term financial decline. But for Mr. Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of the company, these people say, profit is not necessarily what all this is about.
For him, newspapering is a blood sport.
Mr. Murdoch has a long history of going after rivals in an aggressive and public way to win over readers and advertisers, figuring that if he gains market share - even if it means suffering heavy losses for a while - he can hobble the competition.
Perez-Pena made no mention of the Times' poaching of Journal arts reporter Kate Taylor, in a "bloodsport" move of its own.
The Times, which has been under a hiring freeze for years, is clearly sending The Journal a signal by poaching one of its earliest hires. The Journal will have a New York newsroom of roughly three dozen editorial staffers.