Worldly Power

Charles H. Dow and Edward C. Jones started their news bulletin for subscribers on Wall Street in 1882 and soon beat out their competition with a quicker, more reliable service. Jones left, but Dow developed his indexes, prospered, and sold the paper to his Boston correspondent, Clarence W. Barron, in 1902. Over the next sixteen years, Barron built up the JOURNAL to become the major business daily. At five feet five inches and more than three hundred pounds, making and spending millions through his contacts in the trading houses, a man of great energies as well as appetites, Barron was a paradigm for Wall Street before the 1929 Crash.

The 1930’s saw circulation fall and the paper became a money loser; the company was kept alive by the Dow Jones News Service. Fortunately William H. Grimes, a thoroughly professional newsman, became managing editor in the early depression years. Later, the JOURNAL would be run by midwesterners who took a middle-American view of business. The news and advertising departments were separated and reporters were forbidden to invest in stocks upon which they reported. The hero of this account, Bernard Kilgore, became managing editor in 1941. The inverted pyramid form of newspaper writing was abandoned in favor of an in-depth, analytical style; underpaid reporters were expected to make the JOURNAL the best newspaper in the country. When management stood up to mighty General Motors, a major advertiser, in 1954, the paper’s reputation for integrity was assured.

And so it continues today. But does the WALL STREET JOURNAL have “worldly power"? Perhaps it does, but only to the extent that it maintains the confidence of its readership, the most sophisticated in the country. There is no other power source. The Winans affair and the recent insider trading scandals on the street itself show how easily it all can be lost.