History of Newspapers: The Wall Street Journal

About the history of the United States newspaper The Wall Street Journal, information about the paper and some of their scoops.


The Past. In 1882, with 2 associates, newspaperman Charles Henry Dow founded Dow Jones and Company, Inc., a news agency for the financial world. Seven years later, the company published the 1st issue of The Wall Street Journal, which was then a mere collection of bulletins of news affecting business. In 1901, The Wall Street Journal was bought from Dow by Clarence Walker Barrow, a portly, friendly, hardworking newspaperman. He was a specialist in economic journalism, and he took the little financial newssheet far beyond its beginnings. Under his leadership, the Journal published stories to explain the facts behind statistics and formal statements so that the nonexpert could understand them.

In 1939, The Wall Street Journal submitted a series attacking outmoded building codes to the Pulitzer Prize board. The board returned the material, saying that "trade papers are not eligible for consideration." It outgrew its classification as a trade paper and won its 1st Pulitzer Prize in 1947. Since then, it has won several Pulitzer Prizes.

From 1940 to 1970, the paper's circulation grew from 35,000 to more than a million.

The Present. The Wall Street Journal is a special paper for people in the business and economic communities, yet it goes far beyond that designation in its treatment of the news. The Journal gives precedence to stock market tables and other financial news, but it also prints personality profiles, sociological background articles, and other items on the edges of the "hard" financial news.

The Journal's conservative editorial page is widely quoted. In 1972, Managing Editor Frederick Taylor outlawed the use of the word "reform" because, as a conservative, he believed that not all change is for the better.

The Journal often influences the news. On the day it ran a detailed front-page report on the depressing impact expected from the 1974 Arab oil boycott, the stock market dropped 24 points.

The Journal has experimented with various composition and printing innovations such as high-speed tape transmission, cold typesetting, and facsimile publication. It publishes 4 regional editions in 9 printing plants across the U.S. and runs a complex same-day delivery system. It never prints photographs, only line drawings.

Scoops. Monroe W. Karmin and Stanley Penn of The Wall Street Journal investigated gambling in the Bahamas, found that American gangsters had moved in, and, through their expose, contributed to the fall of the Government there in a later election. Penn has also produced exclusives on the suspect financial dealings of Robert Vesco and Howard Hughes. In 1973, Jerry Landauer was 1st with the story that Spiro Agnew was under criminal investigation.

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