Posted by: Jon Fine on June 4, 2008
He’s heading off the to be a dean at Columbia Univeristy’s Journalism school.
There’s been generalized chatter among WSJ-ites that the editors’ ranks—as opposed to the reporters’ ranks—are in for a whacking. That Rupert Murdoch said at a conference last week that it was “ridiculous” a Wall Street Journal is touched or edited by 8.3 people, didn’t do much to counter that chatter.
Grueskin’s email to WSJ staffers is after the jump.
Colleagues and friends,
Earlier today, I informed Robert Thomson that I have decided to leave the Journal in a few weeks to begin a new job as the Dean of Academic Affairs at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. In that role, I will oversee the school's faculty and curriculum, reporting to Dean Nick Lemann. In addition, I'll work closely with others at the university to help adapt the course of study amid the tectonic shifts in our business, and to help build a new-media center that will provide a dynamic locus of research and instruction for students and the industry.
I know this comes at a sensitive time, so I'll add a few grafs about my rationale in taking this new role and in leaving the paper where I've loved working for nearly 13 years.
Ever since I got into this business, I've been alternately gratified and bewildered by the way certain stories, or newspapers, earn or lose influence. When I worked for metro papers in Florida, I used to drive from one neighborhood to another, looking at newspaper racks to see whether our paper or the competition had sold out first. But it was only when I got to WSJ.com in 2001, and had access to the rich data that online provides, that I began to truly understand how readers react to and engage in our journalism. That was also when I started to appreciate the transformation in our business -- the exploding audience, the proliferation of competitors, the power of multimedia journalism, the influence of a single link on Drudge or Digg, and the challenges in finding a business model that can compensate for the erosion in print revenue.
A year ago, Marcus Brauchli put me in my current role as deputy managing editor for news and asked me to help bring the online and print worlds together, while still preserving the unique and valuable traits in each. Thanks to so many of you who sense and share this urgency, the Journal has made huge strides, evidenced by the healthy circulation of the print edition and the unique success of WSJ.com.
Still, the exigencies of updating a site 24/7 and putting out a newspaper six days a week, along with budget, personnel and other duties in this role, have left me little time to focus on broader issues. And so when Dean Lemann and I met, I found that his understanding of our industry's problems and potential matched closely to mine, and his vision for how Columbia would approach those issues was too appealing for me to pass up.
Our business is in a rocky period, but this newsroom retains three tremendous advantages -- our loyal and influential readership, a depth of resources that few other papers or sites enjoy, and a uniquely talented and dedicated staff. I owe you and this institution a great debt for all you've taught and forgiven me over the years, and I wish you every success in the years to come.