From an oped in today’s WSJ by Holman Jenkins, a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.
Here I confess to a personal bias, related to nothing more than reading the Washington Post over the years, which is that it’s an exceptionally brainy newspaper.
Intelligence as a quality is hit or miss in most newspaper writing and editing. At the Post, they seem to have institutionalized it. You rarely find the collapses of critical judgment that seem to be routine at other papers when, say, a trial lawyer appears claiming evidence of racism in the auto dealership industry or at an oil company.
Absent too are the excesses of billboard journalism–the habit of editors casually intruding a noisy paragraph that oversells and distorts the story below, leaving an unsatisfying jumble of facts that don’t live up to the assertions at the top.
We don’t love everything in the Post or all its reporters, and it has certainly benefited from conservative competition from the Washington Times. It also lacks the leverageable assets that Mr. Murdoch would presumably use to build the Journal’s brand and distribution opportunities. But the Post’s editorial page has become remarkably more sensible in recent years (although its Web site remains awful and the Style section has gone down the tubes). The company itself is principally in the news business; Warren Buffett sits on the board, guarding against investment misadventure.
A few readers have harrumphed that Mr. Murdoch reputedly would try to shorten the Journal’s articles. He’s not the only one. Washington Post Executive Editor Len Downie has instructed his crew to write shorter too–and the Post already strikes me as a very well-edited paper: News stories are rounded, complete but not overwritten. They also have a semblance of being written by somebody with a living mind, not just re-executing the media’s general template on a given news event (for an everyday example, see the Post’s recent contributions on the Chinese pet food scare).