One Year Later: Murdoch's WSJ Purchase Not So Bad Says CNBC Panel

Rupert Murdoch has his critics - from those who think his papers are too tabloid-ish - The Sun, The New York Post - to those who find his cable television networks too right-leaning for their tastes. And back in 2007, there was a fear that his purchase of The Wall Street Journal would result in a hybrid of his newspapers and his cable news channels.

However, a year after Murdoch's acquisition, Newsweek senior editor and financial columnist Daniel Gross said he thought Murdoch has actually improved the Journal.

"I think it's worked out quite well for him," Gross said on CNBC's "Power Lunch" Dec. 16. "He owns one of the best newspapers around. They remade the Journal. The front section is a great kind of political, global coverage."

Gross also said it doesn't look like such a bad deal for the journalists employed at financial newspaper, especially in a time of print newspaper hardships - which have resulted in layoffs and cutbacks - like The New York Times and the Tribune newspapers owned by billionaire Sam Zell.

"I think the journalists - I never thought I would say this - the journalists are quite lucky to be working for Murdoch in this type of environment. You could be working for a company that was owned by Sam Zell or one of his publicly held newspapers."

Steve Liesman, who made his mark in financial journalism at The Wall Street Journal during mid-to-late 1990s and left to become an analyst at CNBC, also thinks Murdoch's changes to the Journal are better for its future.

"It's more tabloid-ish than it used to be," Liesman said. "It feels in some places like they're going on a little less than they used to, just to give you my initial impression. They're a little more sensationalist than they used to be. I think that's good newspapering if you ask me. I think it's a little bit less like the old Journal, which was much more measured in how it approached different stories."

Murdoch originally purchased the Journal so that he could use it as a plank to push his newly launched financial cable news channel Fox Business. According to Liesman, the benefits to his media conglomerate News Corp (NYSE:NWS.A) are still yet to come.

"I will say Rupert Murdoch's value here is yet to be determined, right - because he feels like there's some sort of synergy with television and newspapers to come."

News Corp stock has taken a hit over the past year - up at 21.19 nearing the end of 2007 and now trading around 8.

In a Dec.13 article on Crain's New York Business ,com, Matthew Flamm detailed News Corp's financial woes and investors' continued skittishness over the Journal deal.

Analysts believe "...the difficult environment for newspapers has reinforced investors' view of the acquisition as an overpriced indulgence that News Corp. still hasn't justified," Flamm wrote.

"They talk in generalities about where they want to go," says Jason Helfstein, media analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. "But given the high multiple they paid for Dow Jones-and, given the downturn in the ad market, that multiple is going to be even higher-we would like to see something more," the article stated.

However, Gross said Murdoch is in a position not to feel pressured by shareholders - especially in this media environment.

"He can basically afford to tell the shareholders to kiss off," Gross said. "And this is, you know, for journalists is the best kind of place to be working for because if you're demanding quarterly results and earnings growth from a print newspaper, the only way to get it is through massive cost cutting or just throwing up the whole thing and going online."

Prior to Murdoch's takeover of the Journal, media experts, like Columbia Journalism Review's Dean Starkman, who warned of the worst-case scenarios, feared that the Australian-newspaper mogul would strip the newspaper of its "high-quality" and "independence."

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