The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is an influential international daily newspaper headquartered in New York City. The Journal primarily covers United States and international business and financial news and issues—the paper's name comes from Wall Street, the street in New York City which is the heart of the financial district. It has been printed continuously since its founding on July 8, 1889, by the Dow Jones Company, and for many years it had the widest circulation of any newspaper in the United States. The Journal also publishes Asian and European editions. Its main rival as a daily financial newspaper is the London-based Financial Times, which also publishes several international editions.
Respected both in the United States and around the world, the Journal publishes both editorials and opinion page articles that are not limited to economic topics, but include reviews and commentary on politics, the arts, as well as highly informed business and economic opinions. In addition to its well-established tradition of complete tables of all stock market and financial activity of the previous day, thorough reports and analyses of business topics, the paper also carries feature articles that are generally not connected to business subjects. As the most influential business-oriented newspaper published in America, the Journal has a significant influence, and concomitant responsibility, regarding the economic decision-making of those in government and corporate society.
In 1882, Charles Dow together with fellow reporters, Edward Jones, and Charles Bergstresser, formed the Dow Jones Company. Jones converted the small Customers' Afternoon Letter into The Wall Street Journal, first published in 1889, and began delivery of the Dow Jones News Service via telegraph. The Journal featured the Jones "Average," the first of several indexes of stock and bond prices on the New York Stock Exchange. Journalist Clarence Barron purchased control of the company in 1902; circulation was then around 7,000 but climbed to 50,000 by the end of the 1920s.
In the 1980s, Journal reporter James B. Stewart brought national attention to the illegal practice of insider trading, co-winning the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory journalism in 1988, with Daniel Hertzberg, who became the paper's senior deputy managing editor. Stewart expanded on this theme in his book, Den of Thieves.
In 1987, a bidding war ensued between several financial firms for tobacco and food giant RJR Nabisco. This was documented in several Journal articles by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, which were later used as the basis of a bestselling book, Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, and then into a made-for-TV film.
In 2001, the Journal was ahead of most of the journalistic pack in appreciating the importance of the accounting abuses at Enron, and two of its reporters in particular, Rebecca Smith and John R. Emshwiller, played a crucial role in bringing these abuses to light.
For many years, the Wall Street Journal was the most widely circulated paper in America but it relinquished its spot to USA Today in November 2003.
The Wall Street Journal's readership and place in journalism have historically well-represented its namesake. In 2005, the Journal reported a readership profile of about 60 percent top management, an average income of $191,000, an average household net worth of $2.1 million, and an average age of 55.
Australian-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation formally acquired Dow Jones and its flagship Wall Street Journal in December 2007; the sale prompted some staff departures, including of several star reporters and editors. The new ownership brought to a close a long chapter in the Journal's vaunted history and an expectation it might become attempt to broaden its general-interest news as a national and international newspaper.
The Journal features several distinct sections:
A complement to the print newspaper, the Wall Street Journal Online was launched in 1996. It became the largest paid subscription news site on the Web with 712,000 paid subscribers as of the fourth quarter of 2004. As of November 2006, an annual subscription to the online edition of the Wall Street Journal cost $99 annually for those who do not have subscriptions to the print edition. In September 2005, the Journal launched a weekend edition, delivered to all subscribers, which marked a return to Saturday publication after a lapse of some 30 years. The move was designed in part to attract more consumer advertising.
The paper still uses ink dot drawings called "hedcuts," introduced in 1979, rather than photographs of people, a practice unique among major newspapers. However, the use of color photographs and graphics has become increasingly common with the addition of more "lifestyle" sections.
In 2006, the paper announced that it would be including advertising on its front page for the first time. This follows front page advertising on the European and Asian editions in late 2005.
In January 2007, the Journal decreased its broadsheet width from 15 to 12 inches while keeping the length at 22 3/4 inches in order to save newsprint costs. The shrinking amounts to a full column. Other newspapers owned by Dow Jones & Company were also affected. The Journal said the change would save $18 million a year in newsprint costs across all the papers.
The Journal's editorial and news page staffs are independent of each other. Every Thanksgiving the editorial page has two famous articles that have appeared there since 1961. The first is entitled "The Desolate Wilderness" and describes what the Pilgrims saw when they arrived in America. The second is entitled "And the Fair Land" and describes in romantic terms the "bounty" of America. It was penned by former editor Vermont Royster, whose Christmas article "In Hoc Anno Domini," has appeared every December 25 since 1949.
The editorial page of the Journal summarizes its philosophy as being in favor of "free markets and free people." It is typically viewed as adhering to American conservatism and economic liberalism. The page takes a free-market view of economic issues and an often neoconservative view of American foreign policy.
The Journal won its first two Pulitzer Prizes for its editorial writing in 1947 and 1953. The philosophy of its editorials is described as follows:
They are united by the mantra "free markets and free people," the principles, if you will, marked in the watershed year of 1776 by Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. So over the past century and into the next, the Journal stands for free trade and sound money; against confiscatory taxation and the ukases of kings and other collectivists; and for individual autonomy against dictators, bullies and even the tempers of momentary majorities. If these principles sound unexceptionable in theory, applying them to current issues is often unfashionable and controversial.
Its historical position was much the same, and spelled out the conservative foundation of its editorial page:
On our editorial page, we make no pretense of walking down the middle of the road. Our comments and interpretations are made from a definite point of view. We believe in the individual, his wisdom and his decency. We oppose all infringements on individual rights, whether they stem from attempts at private monopoly, labor union monopoly or from an overgrowing government. People will say we are conservative or even reactionary. We are not much interested in labels but if we were to choose one, we would say we are radical.
Its views are somewhat similar to those of the British newsmagazine The Economist with its emphasis on free markets. However, the Journal does have important differences with respect to European business newspapers, most particularly with regard to the relative significance of, and causes of, the American budget deficit. (The Journal generally blames the lack of foreign growth and other related issues while most business journals in Europe and Asia blame the very low savings rate and concordant high borrowing rate in the United States).
During the Reagan administration, the newspaper's editorial page was particularly influential as the leading voice for supply-side economics. Under the editorship of Robert Bartley, it expounded at length on such economic concepts such as the Laffer curve (after the economist Arthur Laffer) and how a decrease in taxes can in many cases increase overall tax revenue by generating more economic activity.
The editorial board has long argued for a less-restrictive immigration policy. In a July 3, 1984, editorial, the board wrote: "If Washington still wants to "do something" about immigration, we propose a five-word constitutional amendment: There shall be open borders." The editorial page commonly publishes pieces by U.S. and world leaders in government, politics, and business.
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