The Making of an Editorial Page
Because I have been reading The Wall Street Journal since I was a kid I looked forward to reading “Free People, Free Markets..” George Melloan did not let me down and as a former reporter, columnist and deputy editor of the editorial page has written a definitive history of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. He covers the page’s evolving politics and personalities during it’s over a century history. He is particularly adept at chronicling the roles of Vermont Royster and Robert Bartley in shaping the page from the 1950s to the dawn of the 21st Century. It was those two editors who catapulted the page into a major force in conservative thought and American journalism. And Melloan had a ringside seat in writing those editorials and serving as Bartley’s deputy.
To me the highlight of the book was Melloan’s recounting his commute from New Jersey into Manhattan on 9/11. I made the same commute on a different New Jersey Transit line and witnessed the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. I worked next door to the then WSJ headquarters and immediately went home. Melloan had a paper to put out and by the efforts of their heroic staff the WSJ was put together at their Princeton printing plant. It was journalistic grace under fire.
What perhaps made the editorial page was their walk on the supply-side in the late 1970s where fiscal orthodoxy was abandoned in favor of broad-based tax cuts. The results came a few years later with the Reagan revolution.
I have a few quibbles though. Sometimes the book reads like a very long newspaper article. I would have liked to see full reprints of a dozen or so editorials that Melloan considers to be the most important. Lastly Melloan leaves out the views of the editorial board prior to America’s entry into World War II. My guess he was not proud of them, but they should have been discussed for the sake of history.
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