News Corp's Wall Street Journal Trims Staff

Posted by: Jon Fine on July 14, 2008

It’s nothing compared to the cuts at virtually every paper in the Tribune chain, but News Corp is whacking some positions at the Wall Street Journal.

Five high-ranking Journal and WSJ.com editorial staffers—“Real Time” columnist Jason Fry, news editor George Anders, senior editor and Buzzwatch blogger Tom Weber, senior editor and “In The Lead” columnist Carol Hymowitz, and “Fiscally Fit” columnist Terri Cullen—will be departing. Coming soon, possibly this week, are more significant cuts—possibly in the range of 50 to 60 positions, according to one insider—at the paper’s editing operations in South Brunswick, NJ.

A Dow Jones spokesman declined to comment on any of these departures.

The new leadership at Dow Jones has been looking very closely at, among other things, how stories at the Journal get edited, as well as the situation with the news staffs of its Newswires unit and the Journal itself.

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time with the Journal’s Managing Editor Robert Thomson, who also oversees Newswires (which is a new area of oversight for that position). Among (many) other things, he discussed the ways in which, say, Newswires content written by staffers in Germany for that market could be better deployed and repackaged across wsj.com and other Dow Jones sites. Fair enough, and that part's hard to argue with. But given today's news, I'm wondering if tighter coordination between Dow Jones' news operations is A. truly on the way as well, and B. if so, what it will mean for current staffing levels.

The cuts in the Journal's editing ranks have been well-telegraphed. During an onstage interview at this year’s D: All Things Digital Conference (which is also owned by Dow Jones), News Corp chairman/CEO/one-guy guy Rupert Murdoch mentioned with disbelief that a Journal story is touched by an average of 8.3 staffers. When I interviewed Thomson I mangled that stat slightly—and got corrected instantaneously, so he’s clearly thinking about that as well.

But! Maybe with these changes they’ll get that figure down to 7.

(Hat tips: Portfolio's Jeff Bercovici and my BusinessWeek colleague Tom Lowry.)

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The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.

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