Monday, December 14, 2009

WSJ | Under Baker, D.C. bureau said 'tilting right'

That's the assessment of media columnist David Carr of The New York Times, who writes today that The Wall Street Journal's deputy managing editor, Gerard Baker, is helping engineer a more conservative tone in the newspaper's Washington bureau. The column has already drawn a strong objection from top WSJ editor Robert Thomson, according to the Romenesko blog.

Thomson, owner Rupert Murdoch's controversial pick to lead the paper, appointed Baker a little over a year ago; Baker is a former D.C. bureau chief for The Financial Times. "According to several former members of the Washington bureau and two current ones," Carr writes, "the two men have had a big impact on the paper’s Washington coverage, adopting a more conservative tone, and editing and headlining articles to reflect a chronic skepticism of the current administration. And given that the paper’s circulation continues to grow, albeit helped along by some discounts, there’s nothing to suggest that the Journal’s readers don’t approve."

Carr cites several specific examples where headlines appeared off-kilter, or stories gained a right-leaning edge during the editing process. In a memo, however, Thomson accuses Carr of carrying water for a nervous senior management at the the NYT: "Yet more evidence that The New York Times is uncomfortable about the rise of an increasingly successful rival while its own circulation and credibility are in retreat,'' Thomson writes, according to a memo cited by Romenesko.

Updated at 12:59 p.m.: Now the NYT's top editor, Bill Keller, has swung in, defending Carr's column as "scrupulously fair and, if anything, understated,'' according to this New York Observer piece.

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