Earlier this year, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal poured money into expanding their local news coverage, as a way of making a splash—a newspaper getting bigger, in this day and age! Saints alive!—and also, pointedly, as a way of challenging the Times as a serious NYC print media outlet. Now, the Journal is expanding into another realm which newspapers have lately largely decided is best left to amateurs: Arts coverage. The Observer reports that the WSJ will launch a weekly pull-out book review—just like the NYTBR—”within the next few weeks.”
This is, of course, excellent news for everybody who likes book reviews, which, as a citizen of a democracy, surely includes you. The section will be edited by Robert Messenger, formerly of the Atlantic and the Weekly Standard—so I guess he’s even more conservative than Sam Tanenhaus? I guess female authors and authors of color now have another major literary arbiter to be ignored by—as well as the New York Sun, the shuttered daily from whose staff pool the Journal is drawing many of its new staffers.
The Sun was a destined-to-be-short-lived conservative rag, but it had a number of intelligent people writing very literate arts coverage—including a number of film critics who’ve written for the L. If Murdoch wants to appeal to readers—and challenge the Times—by appealing to the erudition (or fancied erudition) of his ideal readers, well, there are worse ways, especially if down the line this means more paying gigs for critics. (Alternately, it’ll just be all Kyle Smith, all the time.)