One of Rupert Murdoch's more recent acquisitions, financial daily The Wall Street Journal, is undergoing some changes. According the New York Observer, the Journal is to unveil a weekly arts-and-culture section focused on New York city in early 2010. An internet edition is to materialize much sooner.
Coupled with the introduction of daily sports coverage in March, it seems as if these changes might mean that the famous financial paper is looking to make moves into the general interest sphere.
It seems possible that introducing such a new section is an effort to tackle competition broadsheet, the New York Times, particularly taking into account reports of comments from Murdoch that a culture section could pluck readers from the Times. One unnamed Journal staffer quoted by the Observer begs to differ, however: "I don't think of it being an anti-Times thing. They want this to be a general-interest paper as well as a business paper."
Focusing on culture at a local rather than a national level is a good move, according to Pia Catton, the former culture editor of The New York Sun, who is quoted by the Observer as saying that "The Journal is making a very smart decision by focusing on New York," and adding that "The Times has gone wrong by covering arts nationally and casting the net so wide that they aren't focused on New York anymore." Going local also opens the door for local advertising. "The ad side thought they could sell ads on a local New York basis, given the Broadway scene and the arts scene overall," a Journal staffer told the Observer.
True/Slant writer Michael Roston, however, does not believe that it is the Times that should be concerned by the WSJ's new culture section. Rather, he points out, it is smaller papers such as the New York Observer itself, and sector-specific publications like the monthly City Arts NYC who should be worried about losing their readers and advertising to the Journal.
It is interesting that the WSJ seems to be making moves towards becoming a general interest publication and hence competing with a paper like the NYT rather than focusing on business news to tackle its financial rival the Financial Times. This might seem particularly surprising since what allows the Journal to successfully charge online is its specialised financial reporting which is unique enough that some readers are prepared to pay.
Does the paper's nod to culture and arts reporting demonstrates a neglect of its true colors as a business-minded broadsheet? After this, and the additional sports coverage and more flamboyant front pages since the paper fell into the hands of the News Corp mogul, what will come next for the WSJ?