Much as high-society onlookers congregated at the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas to take in the opening salvos of the Civil War, journalism’s rambunctious class of meta-reporters (your editors included) are taking delight in the numerous salvos being launched between The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times following the debut of the Journal‘s New York Metro section.
So far, today’s fight has not proven anywhere near as unexpectedly catastrophic as its metaphorically strained historical antecedent, and as such, has been mainly a delight for spectators. Let’s take a look at what the New York media scene’s credentialed weisenheimers are saying about Day One of the Battle of Midtown/Hudson.
Writing for The Daily Beast, British-born journalism veteran Harold Evans has helpfully broken down the metro-section fight into distinct scoring categories.
For organization, Evans awards the Journal nine points to the Times‘ one. Crusher, but why?
The GNL [Ed.: Journal‘s “Greater New York”) front page is an attention grabber â€œPolice Let Terrorist Slip Throughâ€¦Rats Mob the Upper East Sideâ€¦Angels Slide Past Yankeesâ€¦â€ What the hell is the city coming to?
Using similar criteria, Evans says the Journal beats the Times in: “Story Count,” “Design” and “Width of Appeal” (we agree with him on that last point).
The Times ekes out a one-point edge in only one arena, some unheard-of category called “Relevance”:
The three main stories in The Times run on the long side — Jamaica Bay, and subway traffic, and one on a Brooklyn school defying the odds — but they are well explained. Best thing in the WSJ are the property pages.
Apparently for Evans, “Relevance” accrues as “length” decreases? Oh well, moving on!
Vanity Fair‘s Juli Weiner, meanwhile, stages a sound-bite-off between the rival publications. Although she refuses to call a winner this early in the proceedings, Weiner awards style points to the Journal‘s Robert Thomson for alliterations, and gently chides the Times for bragging about how old it is. Borrowing from Evans’ made-up point system, we’ll put Weiner down for minus-one-quarter-point for the Times, and zero points for the Journal.
We’d be remiss for not including smart-aleck input from The Awl’s Choire Sicha, who says of today’s memo from Times Co. execs Arthur Sulzberger and Janet Robinson:
It is wildly out of whack in terms of tone; yet it is sort of admirably hostile, in a way? Except that then doesn’t one figure that such a hostile “big barking dog” strategy really just mean you’re weaker than anyone expects?
We’ll call Sicha’s take a minus-one-point for the Times and another minus-zero-point for the Journal.
And so there you have it. To the extent that they’ve weighed in (which to be fair is only a little), New York’s experts on the media have called day one of The Great Newspaper War of 2010 in favor of The Wall Street Journal, sort of.