New 'Wall Street Journal' City Section Takes Aim At 'New York Times' For the first time in the paper's history, the Wall Street Journal is printing a local section, covering politics, sports, real estate, crime and culture from street level. The move is seen by some as the latest strike in a battle between the Journal and The New York Times.
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New 'WSJ' City Section Takes Aim At 'New York Times'

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New 'WSJ' City Section Takes Aim At 'New York Times'

New 'WSJ' City Section Takes Aim At 'New York Times'

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For the first time, the Wall Street Journal´┐Żthis morning is unveiling a New York City edition bursting with local news, all the news that the Journal has not seen fit to print before: city politics, timely sports scores, local gossip, and a beefed-up look at New York-centric culture and real estate. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik says it's another attempt by the Journal to take aim at the New York Times. He joins us from our studios in New York.

And David, since I'm in Culver City - Los Angeles, I'm not able to grab your Big Apple edition. Give us a taste of what's in it.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, fortunately, I am. I have - right here - a copy of what's called the Greater New York section of the Wall Street Journal. It has a look at a number of stories of local interest: revisiting a piece about the Zazi terrorism allegations, questions - whether mobs of rats are running free on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, stories about real estate.

There's even a full picture of my Los Angeles Angels beating the New York Yankees, a sports story you might not have seen get much play in the old Wall Street Journal.

MONTAGNE: In the old Wall Street Journal. So how does this particular change fit into the Journal's overall strategy in taking on the New York Times?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the Journal's been competing, nationally, for circulation. In fact, its daily edition is larger than that for the New York Times. But now, you know, it's looking to bring the battle to the hometown. As Rupert Murdoch, the controlling owner has pointed out, the Times has over 200,000 more subscribers than the Journal in the New York area. He says that's room to grow.

And equally important, I think you have to see this in the context of the Journal's greater pursuit, under Murdoch, of moving from simply financial expertise to general news dominance. Murdoch, in particular, says he respects the New York Times, but he clearly indicates he thinks it's arrogant, he thinks it has a liberal agenda.

We have a cut, here, of an interview conducted of Murdoch by Marvin Kalb at the National Press Club.

Mr. RUPERT MURDOCH (Owner, The Wall Street Journal): And you can see it in the way they choose their stories...

Mr. MARVIN KALB (National Press Club): Did you interview...

Mr. MURDOCH: And what they put on page one - I think anything Mr. Obama wants.

FOLKENFLIK: Anything Mr. Obama wants. That belief of Mr. Murdoch, that the Times pursues a liberal agenda, underscores most everything he does.

MONTAGNE: And how is the New York Times responding?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, in a sense, they say they're shrugging it off. I mean, I don't think it's any accident that if you pick up your New York Times today, at least here in New York, one of the stories above the fold says New York's mayor - but Bermuda shares custody - about Mayor Bloomberg's longstanding practice of spending time in Bermuda.

At the same time, you know, I spoke with Scott Heekin-Canedy, the president and general manager of the New York Times. And he says the paper's New York readers get exactly what they want.

Mr. SCOTT HEEKIN-CANEDY (President, New York Times): Our coverage of New York is not just the police blotter or the courts, or government or politics. It also includes culture and finance, the arts, style, fashion, sports. And we've been covering those beats for many, many years. And we're respected for that coverage, and our readers come to it for us.

FOLKENFLIK: So, you know, they say they're not going to cut their ad rates. They're going to compete. And they're trying to up their PR game, too.

MONTAGNE: And just in brief, what's at stake?

FOLKENFLIK: What's at stake for the Journal is, will it be able to expand to become the nation's clearly authoritative paper on more than financial matters, or will it lose that franchise in the process of expanding a more general brace(ph). And for the Times, it's - can it hold onto its mission, hold onto its paying readers at a time that's been tough for the news business.

In the meantime, there's been a lot of head games. Robert Thompson, the Journal's editor, has accused the Times of being unprincipled. And even slapped a picture of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger in a collage of faces to illustrate a story about men's faces appealing to women because perhaps they were effeminate.

There's a lot of politicking going on. There's a lot of almost Fox News-like rancor there.

MONTAGNE: NPR's David Folkenflik. And this is NPR News.

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