Great newspapers do help to set the agenda for the nation. They break stories of corruption or on other vital matters. One of the few things I find admirable about the New York Times is that its controlling family, the Sulzberger family, is not intent on wringing every penny of profit out of its flagship paper. Thus, last week when I read a long critique in the Times of the Wall Street Journal's management for its sluggish financial performance, I sniffed hypocrisy.
The hypocrisy is all the greater coming from liberals who are given to disparaging conservatives for their alleged devotion the "Almighty Dollar." Profits are essential to all businesses. For one thing, they are a very accurate poll of the populace's tastes, but there are other services some corporations supply to society. Both the Journal and the Times supply -- at a steep cost -- information that enlightens the citizenry. There are easier ways to make money.
Yet, as I say, I doubt the criticism of the Journal printed in the Times was really about the paper's bottom line. It was about the conservatives who run the paper. The story leaped with the utmost ardor on the Journal's chief executive Peter Kann for supposedly being inert. Actually, he is stupendously active. Kann and the paper's former chairman, Warren Phillips, pioneered in building the global Wall Street Journal and in the enormous expansion of the company's wire and online reporting staffs overseas. It has more news staff outside the United States than any new source in the country. During an era when even the Times has been rocked by exposure of phony journalists the Journal's credibility remains unsurpassed as does its professionalism.
Kann has overseen all this and the growth of the paper's editorial page until it became the most influential in the country, the main advocate of growth economics, a major investigator of Clinton corruption, and the proponent of foreign policy ideas that triumphed in the present administration. What is more, in a time of declining circulation, the Journal's subscribers remain with it solidly. The Bancroft family is right. Its ownership of the Wall Street Journal is a matter of public trust and it has executed that trust superbly.