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Stunning is the choice. Also exciting. And daring. Time Warner puts these adjectives into play by selecting an "outsider"-Norman Pearlstine (if one can consider a well-known former Wall Street Journal editor to be an outsider)-as editor-in-chief, to preside over the growing roster of Time Inc. magazines.

A company known for promoting from within, treasuring its old-school-tied traditions and practices and for developing and inculcating unique, seemingly proprietary, editorial styles, Time Warner carefully cast about for a successor to Jason McManus, its retiring 60-year-old editor-in-chief. And in the end, Chairman Gerald Levin turned to former WSJ executive editor Pearlstine.

Arguably, Mr. Pearlstine, 51, is the only credible outsider Mr. Levin could have chosen without triggering total dissension in the ranks. Among Mr. Pearlstine's many accomplishments at WSJ was his palpable advocacy of marketing and his determination to make it an important element in that paper's business and financial news columns. He also played a major role in creating the daily's three-section format and, with Hearst Corp., had a hand in shaping the brilliant personal finance magazine, SmartMoney.

Mr. Levin's choice delivers two loud, positive notes: It promises more innovation for the magazine industry and it tells those who doubt Mr. Levin's commitment to print, to magazines, that they can finally stop doubting. You bring in a Norm Pearlstine from "outside" only if you're really serious about the business.

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