Why the ‘WSJ’ Missed on Bin Laden

First editions had little or none of the news

Why did some readers of The Wall Street Journal get no news of Osama Bin Laden’s death in Monday’s edition, while its arch rival, The New York Times, had the full scoop? Even though the newspapers were scrambling Sunday night to cram the biggest news story of the year into their Monday editions, copies of the first two editions of The Wall Street Journal to land on suburban New York lawns Monday morning had nothing on the event.

The third version (which closed just before 11 p.m., not long after the news broke and 30 minutes before President Obama officially announced it) had just a photo of Bin Laden and a caption under a two-column headline announcing his reported death. A later edition carried a roughly 500-word story underneath a six-column headline. Readers lucky enough to get the sixth, and final, edition, which closed at 1 a.m., would have found several stories.

The New York Times was also printing the paper when the news broke, but it decided to stop the print run at 10:30 p.m. and throw out its earlier editions. The result was a single edition with five stories devoted to the event, including a news analysis, an obituary, reaction from the street, and an inside story detailing the news coverage.

Meanwhile, the city’s dueling tabloids seemed to compete for the most pages devoted to their coverage. The New York Daily News’ cover boasted of nine pages of coverage inside while the New York Post listed eight inside pages of coverage.