International push, tighter control drive 'WSJ' shakeup

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Seven months after News Corp.'s acquisition of The Wall Street Journal, CEO Rupert Murdoch's hand-picked top editor last month announced a shakeup of the newsroom management structure and a stronger commitment to pursuing international opportunities. Central to the changes announced June 19 by Managing Editor Robert Thomson was the creation of a team of three deputy managing editors to focus, respectively, on national, international and enterprise reporting. In a memo to the Journal's editorial staff, Thomson referred to the three editors as a “troika,” noting they “will sit close together in what could prosaically be called a "news hub,' thus streamlining commissioning and editing decisions.” The team consists of the Journal's general news editor, Matt Murray, who took over national editor duties; Nik Deogun, previously the “Money & Investing” section editor, who is now international editor in charge of global bureaus and correspondents; and Mike Williams, who added oversight of investigative reporting to his duties as page 1 editor. The revamp, Thomson said, establishes “a central news desk that will allow significantly enhanced cooperation between print, Web and newswire journalists in New York and around the world.” Reed Phillips, managing partner of media investment firm DeSilva & Phillips, said of the reorganization: “I would have expected this. This was a prized acquisition by Murdoch. He's got his team in there, and he's going to make sure things work out the way he wants them to.” In addition to Deogun's appointment as international editor, Deputy Managing Editor Dan Hertzberg was given responsibility for the Journal's European and Asian editions, and “will have the task of building our editorial presence and profile in Europe and, in particular, in the U.K.,” Thomson said in his memo. Separately, Thomson announced in a speech last month at the South Asian Journalists Association's annual convention in New York that the Journal planned to run four pages of international news a day. “There's a great opportunity internationally, absolutely,” Phillips said. “As part of News Corp., the Journal now sees itself as a global player. They're not just competing with The New York Times but also the Financial Times in Europe.” Thomson, former editor of News Corp.'s Times of London, was named publisher of the Journal in December. He succeeded Marcus Brauchli as managing editor, the highest editorial title at the Journal, in May. (Thomson declined to be interviewed for this article.) A separate transaction in early June reinforces the Journal's commitment to multimedia and international content distribution. Dow Jones became the second U.S. publisher (after the Seattle Times in February) to announce it would use editorial and publishing software from EidosMedia, of Milan, Italy, whose Méthode application automatically reformats and channels stories to different media outlets, such as a printed newspaper, a text message or the Web. “That's a key to their future and plays exactly to the newsroom reorganization they're in the midst of,” said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst with OutSell Inc. “This will allow them to move content more quickly to real-time distribution onto the Web, cable and other outlets, eliminating the labor in the hand-off between print editors and Web staff.” While the Journal's “Opinion” pages typically champion politically conservative viewpoints, Thomson emphasized news operation independence in announcing that Deputy Managing Editor Alix Freedman will have “expanded authority as a defender of the paper's ethical and journalistic standards.” Freedman is a past winner of Pulitzer, Loeb and Polk journalism awards. There have been several recent key editorial departures at the Journal in addition to Brauchli. These include former deputy managing editor Bill Grueskin, who resigned in early June to become a dean at Columbia University's journalism school. Grueskin had overseen the Journal's bureau chiefs.
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