On This Day

charles dow, dow jones
Associated Press
Wall Street Journal founder Charles Dow

On This Day: Wall Street Journal Launches

July 08, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On July 8, 1889, the first issue of The Wall Street Journal, featuring four pages and costing two cents, was published by Dow Jones & Co.

Dow Jones Publishes Wall Street Journal

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In 1882, Charles Dow, Edward Jones and Charles Bergstresser formed the financial news agency Dow Jones & Co., which delivered daily hand-written news briefs called “flimsies” to traders and subscribers around the Wall Street area.

The company soon began producing the “Customers’ Afternoon Letter,” which would include the daily average of a collection of industrial stocks, the precursor to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

In 1889, the Customers’ Afternoon Letter became The Wall Street Journal, a four-page newspaper that sold for two cents. The Journal was one of the world’s first financial newspapers, and one of the first newspapers to appeal to readers who shared a common interest, but not necessarily a common locale.

The Journal sold advertising for 20 cents a line, according to Dow Jones. “Much of the financial advertising in the Journal was placed to buy the newspaper's silence,” wrote Edward Scharff, author of “Worldly Power, the Making of the Wall St. Journal.”

Evolution of The Wall Street Journal

Clarence Walker Barron, an economic journalist, purchased the publication in 1901 and changed the format to include the stories behind the brief bulletins it had been printing. No longer just listing statistics and posting bulletins, the newspaper contained comprehensive accounts of financial trends and breaking stories.

In 1941, Bernard Kilgore became managing editor and redesigned the newspaper with the intent to “broaden the subject matter beyond finance to everything affecting earning a living,” writes Time’s Marshall Loeb.

Under Kilgore, who went on to serve as CEO from 1945 to 1966, “reporters were forced to ask deeper questions, not merely about momentary events but about ongoing situations and trends—the kind of news the business reader could use,” wrote Robert Bartley, editor of the Journal, in 1989.

From 1941 to Kilgore’s death in 1967, Journal circulation increased from 33,000 to 1.1 million, and Dow Jones’ earnings increased from $211,000 in 1945 to more than $13 million in 1966.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the publication from Dow Jones & Co. in 2007 in a $5 billion agreement. Murdoch shifted the focus of the newspaper to include more news, politics and international affairs.

Today The Wall Street Journal is the widely read U.S. daily, with a weekday circulation averaged 2.09 million, according to figures released in April 2010 by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal Online

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