DOWJONES-NEWSCORP/Under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch’s  News Corp, the Wall Street Journal has made no bones that the New York Times is enemy No.1. But that hit list doesn’t stop at the Gray Lady. From time to time, the Journal pivots to set USA Today in its crosshairs — and its latest actions mark a move in that direction.

The most recent flag the Journal captured involves Choice Hotels. Earlier this week, the Journal announced it will become the “preferred newspaper”  beginning in January for guests at more than 3,700 Choice Hotel properties including Comfort Inn, Quality Inn and Clarion Hotel. What was the “preferred newspaper” before the Journal swooped in? That would be USA Today.

USA Today begs to differ. A spokeswoman for the paper emailed the following: “USA Today remains a preferred vendor for Choice Hotels in 2011.”

It’s a  matter of semantics because guests have to request copies of newspapers. According to the Journal, the paper will be delivered as a “complimentary amenity” to guests who ask for it come Jan. 1.

There’s some history here. In April 2009, Marriott Hotels announced it would no longer automatically drop newspapers at the doorsteps of guests. Instead, it made copies of USA Today,  the Journal and other local metros  available upon request. What seemed like an innocuous, eco-conscious move on the part of Marriott only served to hurt the circulation of USA Today, which  built a large part of its circulation on hotel-distributed copies.