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Times Editor Spoofs Murdoch Bid for WSJ

There's funny "ha-ha" - and then there's funny "ouch." The latter would best describe the reaction of Wall Street Journal reporters and editors to a tabloidized version of the paper's fabled front page lampooning a potential Rupert Murdoch ownership.

As you can see, the mock WSJ front page looks like a hybrid of the traditional Journal, with its signature pin dot drawings and bullet point synopses of the news, and a typical Murdoch tabloid strewn with sleazy celebrity gossip headlines, a sensational crime story and flashy lottery ads.

And who, you ask, is responsible for sending the mocked-up painful reminder to folks at the Journal - who have been having something of a collective anxiety attack over the possibility of a Murdoch purchase? An editor at The New York Times, the Journal's main competitor.

Larry Ingrassia, the business editor at The Times, says one of the art directors in his department created the mocked-up WSJ front page "as a lark." Ingrassia thought it such a riot that he ordered up an electronic version and promptly pinged his friends at the Journal, where, incidentally, he worked for years before his paper let The Times steal him away.

"It was done as humor," Ingrassia told us, still giggling. "There was nothing nefarious."

And he said he didn't get the sense that anyone at the Journal was offended. Their reaction, he thought, was "what a hoot."

Well, maybe not a full-on hoot. But even if the spoof did have them grasping for the Valium, journalists at the Journal had a few chuckles. (Just a few.)

"Most saw it as a good-natured (and wickedly brilliant) joke," says one senior Journal staffer.

Another senior official for Dow Jones and Co., which owns the Wall Street Journal, said, "We're pleased to know that people at The Times actually have a sense of humor."

The mock front page has has been circulating around newsrooms of the Journal and Dow Jones for about a month now, ever since Murdoch's surprise $5 billion bid for the news organization was disclosed. A spokesman for the company said Dow Jones had "no comment" on the spoofed up front page.

As for Murdoch, he claimed in an interview this week with the Wall Street Journal that he wouldn't change a thing about the WSJ's front page. "The front page is not boring. Absolutely not," Murdoch said, (undoubtedly crossing his fingers!).

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 7, 2007; 2:30 PM ET
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