2010, Books, Non-Fiction

War at the Wall Street Journal (2010, Sarah Ellison)

I’m not sure this book is something I would have read were it not for the “Planet Fox” series in the New York Times. But it’s a mostly well-told, compelling story of Robert Murdoch’s purchase of Dow Jones. I’m not sure it does enough to make it an essential read, but if you’re interested in media consolidation, it’s probably worth your time.

So, the positives: It’s an easy read. And it’s a page turner, which is something I don’t think you can say about every book about mergers and acquisitions. Moreover, Ellison has gotten a lot of information from most of the main players (or people around the main players), meaning that we get a real insider’s point of view on the events. As a work of journalism, it’s pretty good. The reader gets the full story, and Ellison’s role at the paper doesn’t appear to compromise her position too much. (If anything, you might think she went out of her way to try to be objective, given that this could have just been fool of nostalgia and regret.)

However, I don’t love a couple of things Ellison does, which I think significantly weaken the book. Firstly, she assumes knowledge on the part of the reader that I just don’t have. A couple times she refers to business concepts and just assumes that all readers are businessmen and know what she’s talking about. She might briefly mention the significance but basically never explains the concept. That’s frustrating. And though there’s some attempt to situate the takeover in the world of declining print media, there’s not enough external context for me to really care enough.

Having read both “Planet Fox” and this book, I’m actually left feeling ;like “Planet Fox” does a much better job, not just because it’s far more recent, but because it’s about more things than just Murdoch buying Dow Jones – it tells us more about Murdoch’s affect on our world than this book does.


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