I think that's the real take-away from the flap over the WSJ running an ancient, oddball photo of Elana Kagan playing softball, coming as it did amidst a mostly right-wing whispering campaign about Kagan's sexuality. Journal editors played dumb when they were called on the strange photo choice. But the fact is I'd bet anybody $20 that in the history of Journal, the newspaper has never published, on A1, a 17-year-old photo of a Supreme Court nominee the day after their nomination was announced.
So of course there was something going on at the Journal. And as former staffer Ryan Chittum writes at CJR, the sad truth is readers can no longer assume Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is playing on the up-and-up. Readers can no longer assume that partisan politics aren't a driving force inside the newsroom and don't have a major impact on how the newspaper looks everyday.
Look, readers have always known that the Journal's right-wing opinion pages play home to the Looney Tunes crowd that, for eight years, couldn't sleep at night knowing Bill Clinton was president. But readers also knew that the prestigious Journal newsroom played it straight and it also played home to some of the country's best reporters and editors. But no more. Since Murdoch bought the paper it's become more and more like a GOP sounding board. (It's also become a Pulitzer Prize-free zone.) Murdoch has done what he always does when he buys a major daily; he dumbed it down and shifted it to the right.
For instance, just look at today's Journal A1 story about its latest batch of political polling.
Voters Shifting To GOP, Poll Finds
The Journal's odd proof [emphasis added]:
A big shift is evident among independents, who at this point in the 2006 campaign favored Democratic control of Congress rather than Republican control, 40% to 24%. In this poll, independents favored the GOP, 38% to 30%.
Question: Why would the Journal compare May, 2010 polling data to numbers from four years ago? That seems absurd. Why not just compare the polling numbers to, say, January? Answer: Because if the Journal did, it's GOP-friendly lede would disappear. Because if you look at the data, the overall preference for a Republican-controlled Congress, as measured by the Journal's own poll, hasn't changed since January.
The Journal trumpets on A1 that there's some sort of stampede among voters towards the GOP. But if you look at the data, there's been no big movement towards to the GOP since January. So the Journal simply manufactures its story by digging up polling data from four years ago?
Honestly, it's embarrassing to watch a once-proud newsroom reduced to such nonsense. But that's what happens when Rupert Murdoch becomes your boss. Journalism takes a backseat to politics.