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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » War at the Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle To Control an American Business Empire » User review

Making a boring topic interesting

  • Aug 27, 2010
The story of Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Dow Jones Company, parent company of The Wall Street Journal, is retold in detail by Ms. Ellison, a gifted storyteller and former reporter for the Journal. After meeting the principal combatants in the battle, we watch the story unfold in the boardrooms and back rooms of wealth, power, and public influence. The old owners of the journal, the Bankroft family, come off badly as a group of spoiled wealthy dilettantes who live off the paper, but don't want to recognize the modern realities of the news business. They are not quite the cast of Arrested Development, but there are similarities. The management at the paper is a mixed group, some good and some bad, but ultimately they are irrelevant. Murdoch's six billion dollars speaks louder than any other participant.

War at theWSJ reads like an in-depth article from the old Journal, well written, detailed, and engrossing, once you start to read. I was drawn into a story that initially didn't seem all that interesting to me. I am not attracted to media personalities, newspaper people, or wealthy families. Stories about the newspaper business are like stories about Hollywood- sad tales about self indulgent, enormously entitled people who believe that they are special. I avoid them. Nevertheless, the author made this parade of nattering narcissists interesting.

One curious aspect of the book's product page is the prominent position of a review by William Cohan of the NY Times. It was not a review of this book at all, which Cohan mentions only in passing, but an attack piece on Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch may be unlovable, but I wondered why amazon would put this irrelevant flotsam above all other reviews, even above an interview with the author. It does serve a purpose: you can smell the fear and loathing that the NY Times feels for Murdoch. Maybe the people at amazon feel it too.

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Product Description
This is a tale about big business, an imploding dynasty, a mogul at war, and a deal that sums up an era of change. The main character, rocked by feuding factions and those who would remake it, is theWall Street Journal, which affects the thoughts, votes, and stocks of two million readers daily. Sarah Ellison, while at theJournal, won praise for covering the $5 billion acquisition that transformed the pride of Dow Jones and the estimable but eccentric Bancroft family into the jewel of Rupert Murdoch's kingdom. Here she expands her work, using her knowledge of the paper and its people to go deep inside the landmark transaction, as no outsider has or can, and also far beyond it, into the rocky transition when Murdoch's crew tussled with oldJournalhands and geared up for battle with theNew York Times. With access to all the players, Ellison moves from newsrooms (where editors duel) to estates (where the Bancrofts go at it like the Ewings). She shows Murdoch, finally, for who he is--maneuvering, firing, undoing all that the Bancrofts had protected.Here is a superlative account of a deal with reverberations beyond the news, told with the storytelling savvy that transforms big stories into timeless chronicles of American life and power.

Amazon Exclusive: William D. Cohan ReviewsWar at the Wall Street Journal

William D. Cohan is an online columnist for theNew York Times, appears on NPR, CNN, Bloomberg TV, CNBC, and is a frequent contributor toVanity ...
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ISBN-10: 0547152434
ISBN-13: 978-0547152431
Author: Sarah Ellison
Genre: Business & Investing, Reference
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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