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War at the Wall Street Journal ebook

by Sarah Ellison

A Q&A with Sarah Ellison, Author of War at The Wall Street Journal.

A Q&A with Sarah Ellison, Author of War at The Wall Street Journal. Q: How did this book come about? A: I was covering the media at the Wall Street Journal when Rupert Murdoch made his bid for the paper. The story became an epic saga, clearly great material for a book. True, I had a vested interest in the subject, given that I spent the better part of 14 years toiling at the same newspaper (leaving 8 years ago) and knowing many of the characters involved.

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003. War at the Wall Street journal : inside the struggle to control an American. business empire, Sarah Ellison. p. cm. ISBN 978-0-547-15243-1. 1. Wall Street journal. 2. Dow Jones & Co. I. Title. Book design by Brian.

The mother of all tick-tock. The Rupert Murdoch in War at the Wall Street Journal, so spectral in much of the coverage, is very much a flesh-and-blood presence here. Charming, querulous, distracted and fully engaged, his approach to business and life is reflected on many of the pages. - David Carr, New York Times media columnist. This is a superb book about a momentous event we knew less about than we thought.

Personal and Confidential ON FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2007, at 5:34 . establish. It came with a simple heading: PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL FROM RUPERT In Steiger's world, that meant only one person.

Sarah Ellison seems to have been present at every party, executive office meeting, secret hotel suite conference, corporate plane ride, etc. in Rupert Murdoche(tm)s hijacking of the the Wall Street Journal. e"Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down " spins an absorbing yarn played out on super-yachts and in corporate jets, populated by an irresistible cast of characters. e" New York Times "A book as devastatingly definitive as any Journal tick tock.

Her first book, War at the Wall Street Journal, was published in 2010. After the book was published, Ellison was banned from a Wall Street Journal press conference, in a move interpreted by observers as retaliation for her book’s critical coverage. In 2016, she was promoted to special correspondent, following her activity for Vanity Fair’s blog, The Hive, which concentrates towards Washington, technology, and politics.

Rupert Murdoch arriving to address the Wall Street Journal newsroom on Dec. 13, 2007. Ellison, a former reporter at The Journal, covered the takeover in real time for the very newspaper Murdoch was scheming to acquire. She gracefully slips back and forth across enemy lines, gathering intelligence from all sides and using her precious face time with Murdoch and his adult children more profitably than did the media critic Michael Wolff for his self-referential biography, The Man Who Owns the News.

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.

A tale about big business, an imploding dynasty, a mogul at war, and a deal that epitomized an era of change


While working at the Wall Street Journal, Sarah Ellison won praise for covering the $5 billion acquisition that transformed the pride of Dow Jones and the estimable but eccentric Bancroft family into the jewel of Rupert Murdoch’s kingdom. Here she expands that story, using her knowledge of the paper and its people to go deep inside the landmark transaction, as no outsider has or can, and also far beyond it, into the rocky transition when Murdoch’s crew tussled with old Journal hands and geared up for battle with the New York Times. With access to all the players, Ellison moves from newsrooms to estates and shows Murdoch, finally, for who he is—maneuvering, firing, undoing all that the Bancrofts had protected. Her superlative account transforms news of the deal into a timeless chronicle of American life and power.

You know a book is really good when... you are on an express subway train and you don't realize you've passed your stop until it pulls out of the station. And you don't even mind that it's going to take you an extra 40 minutes to get home, because that will give you more time to dig into the book...

That's the test that Sarah Ellison's gracefully-written and impeccably-researched chronicle of the battle for the control of and the soul of the Wall Street Journal passed with flying colors this past weekend. True, I had a vested interest in the subject, given that I spent the better part of 14 years toiling at the same newspaper (leaving 8 years ago) and knowing many of the characters involved. Ultimately, this book is itself a tribute to the "old" Wall Street Journal -- a detailed, careful saga that avoids getting bogged down in arcane details about family trusts and the newspaper's history and focusing on "showing" rather than "telling" the reader how a dysfunctional family, an ambitious media mogul and perhaps willfully blind newspaper editors collided, producing a dramatic change in the nature of a century-old American institution, The Wall Street Journal. Ellison presents everything from inside glimpses of the 'morning meeting' at the paper (complete with the posturing and game-playing of ambitious bureau chiefs and editors) to an inside glimpse of Rupert Murdoch's life, from slavish bellboys to the interior of his private plane. It's business journalism at its best; a worthy heir to books such as Barbarians at the Gate and Den of Thieves.

Ellison is a former Journal reporter who had longstanding relationships with many of the key players in the drama; she also got access to the Murdoch family and to Robert Thomson, Murdoch's new lieutenant at the helm of the Journal, as well as to key members of the Bancroft family. The result is a well-rounded narrative that doesn't skip over any twist or turn in the story of how the Wall Street Journal went from being a "public trust" in the hands of the Bancrofts to a feather in the cap of Rupert Murdoch, who had long coveted it. At its heart, the story is one of an impossible conundrum that now faces every newspaper in America: how to remain profitable in the Internet era. Under the Bancrofts, the Journal may have retained its cherished independence, but without the resources to undertake the projects that made it famous. Under Murdoch, the future remains murky; the resources are there, but is there a vision? One of the best features of this book is that Ellison lays out the evidence and allows readers to judge for themselves, although her conclusion hints at her own view of the way that subtle changes that fall short of editorial interference can still result in a very different kind of newspaper product.

Even if you're not enamored of business books, this could be the one to change your mind. The portraits in words of the various players, from JP Morgan Chase dealmaker Jimmy Lee, with his slicked-backed hair and his suspenders, to the haggard-looking Marcus Brauchli, ousted WSJ managing editor, are impeccable and often either hilarious or poignant.

Very highly recommended.

Full disclosure: Ellison was a colleague, although we never worked together on stories/projects. Neither she nor her publisher provided me with a copy of this book, nor did they solicit a review.
Author Sarah Ellison rose to the tremendous challenge of producing the best book available on the Murdoch purchase of The Wall Street Journal. In some ways this story represents America. The paper won the Pulitzer Prize 33 times, yet succumbed to loss of vision of its inheritors combined with the fact that its industry is dying. It's editorial section lost its shine within about 4 months.

I think Ellison's descriptions of the Bancroft family and Rupert Murdoch and the effects of both on the paper's culture were excellent. Many characters presented in this story seem like a blur to me now. It was difficult for me to keep up with the constant introduction of new characters and maintain my pace through this book.
I thoroughly enjoyed this account of Murdoch's purchase of the Wall Street Journal. Not only is the reader exposed to the workings of Murdoch and News Corp but also a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the disparate characters that make up the Bancroft family. The different factions within that family blessed with fabulous inherited wealth make for very entertaining reading. Mostly though, I enjoyed the fascinating descriptions of Murdochs thinking and how the various members of the Journals management team addressed the inevitability of News Corp ultimately prevailing.

Highly Recommended.
I hesitated before buying this, because I'd followed the original coverage of Murdoch's purchase of Dow Jones very closely in the news, and also read Michael Wolff's, The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch. However, I'm now glad I bought and read this book. It's a better book than "The Man Who Owns the News" (though it has less detail on Murdoch himself and his team). Also, unlike the twist-and-turns of the daily news coverage of the takeover -- this book sticks to the main highlights of the story (which is a good thing). Finally, in addition to just telling the story of the takeover, this book talks about the first year of ownership under Murdoch, and how the Wall Street Journal has started to change. The book also foretells the current war between the Journal and the New York Times, as the Journal steps up coverage of New York.

Like some other reviewers here, this disclosure: I'm also a former employee of The Journal (are we the only ones reading the book? I hope not). I worked there under what I guess would be considered the "old days," and worked with several of the folks mentioned and interviewed for this book. In my opinion, this passage from Ellison's book is one of the best short descriptions of the "old" Journal that I've read: "Traditionally, the paper had been a newsroom of midwesterners in the center of New York, a group happy to exist outside the glamor of the city. The Journal was well read in flyover country and in the investment banking corridors of Wall Street, but among the literati and the culture set of Manhattan, it was viewed with a certain disdain, almost as if it were a trade paper. The reporters and editors often thought that was part of the beauty of the place. The Journal told its readers stories they never knew they wanted to hear...Murdoch wanted to wipe all that away."

Well, he has. Like most readers of the Journal, I'd noticed lots of incremental changes since the ownership battle, but never really stepped back to take a look at the overall picture. Now reading this book has caused me to take a step back with some perspective, read through the most recent issue, and realize that the "old" Journal might, indeed, be gone. It's now a very good general national newspaper, with a great business section, and other sections (sports, the arts, etc.) that are still below the standards of the New York Times but coming along quickly.

As I write this, one of the biggest business news stories of recent times is unfolding (the Gulf of Mexico oil spill) and I keep waiting for the in-depth, Journalesque reconstruction of events, or in-depth interviews with oil patch technical experts. I'm not really seeing it -- I'm seeing the Journal follow the pack. In fact, the 2 or 3 best stories I've read in recent days have been in The Times, not the Journal. Overall, I'm not sure that makes the Journal a *worse* newspaper, just different -- newsier, more mainstream, and less interested in covering business and corporations in depth. What's missing? The stories that "readers never knew they wanted to hear."

One of the concerns with the Murdoch takeover -- a concern that the reporters of the Journal obsessed over in their coverage -- is whether Murdoch would bring a conservative, Fox-news-like slant to news coverage under his ownership. I'll let journalism professors figure that one out (Murdoch hates journalism professors, by the way, according to this book). But the book itself claims that under new ownership, management is now hyper-focused on rooting out liberal bias from the paper, excising quotes from "liberal" sources and playing up the opinions and "facts" presented by conservative sources (for example, one of the lead quotes in the obituary of Edward Kennedy was supplied by Rush Limbaugh).

What this book resolves for me, though, is the question of whether there was any alternative to the Murdoch takeover. Going way back to the "old days," it was always pretty clear that the management Dow Jones could go in two directions: 1. Go much harder and deeper into the world of electronic financial and business news gathering or 2. Become a better, newsier, flashier "general interest" newspaper.

Choice number 1 never happened: It was pretty clear that over the years Dow Jones had let the world pass it by, taking medium-sized steps to enter the electronic age, and botching several of them (like Telerate), while competitors (most specifically Reuters and Bloomberg) ran rings around it in serving the needs of the financial community. So now it's up to Murdoch and his team to pursue option number 2, turning the Journal into a general interest newspaper. It's not been a good financial decision (News Corp. has already written off most of the $5 billion that it paid to acquire Dow Jones), but it will certainly be interesting to see how it works. No longer content to be a discerning business person's "second newspaper," the Journal now aspires to be the "first," in an age when fewer and fewer people even read newspapers.

In any case -- this book is a good, streamlined retelling of the Journal story. A good book for readers who like business takeover stories; a must read for people interested in the future of journalism.
I read WSJ every day for many years. It was like having coffee as a part of each morning. WSJ after Murdoch is totally different. Recommend for all WSJ readers.
War at the Wall Street Journal ebook
Sarah Ellison
EPUB size:
1967 kb
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1207 kb
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Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 14, 2011)
304 pages
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