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Wall Street Journal shakes up newsroom

The new top editor of The Wall Street Journal shook up the senior ranks of the paper’s newsroom Wednesday, even as the family that controls the Journal’s parent company continued to weigh a possible sale to media baron Rupert Murdoch.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The new top editor of The Wall Street Journal shook up the senior ranks of the paper’s newsroom Wednesday, even as the family that controls the Journal’s parent company continued to weigh a possible sale to media baron Rupert Murdoch.

Marcus Brauchli, who became managing editor of the leading business newspaper in mid-April as part of a broader power transfer at Dow Jones & Co., announced several changes among those who report directly to him.

Brauchli said in an interview that the changes were intended to complete the paper’s integration of its print and online news businesses and to simplify its international news operations.

Daniel Hertzberg, who had been the No. 2 ranking newsroom executive, will move to Brussels to take on a new role overseeing the Journal’s European and Asian editions and its foreign bureaus.

Alan Murray, who had been assistant managing editor of the paper, will become executive editor for online news, in which he will have broad oversight of non-print media projects including the Journal’s Web site and its relationship with the cable news network CNBC, as well as MarketWatch, a financial news business that Dow Jones acquired.

Previously MarketWatch had reported to Todd Larsen, the chief operating officer of Dow Jones’ consumer media group, a business unit that includes the Journal. CNBC is part of General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal unit.

As part of the changes, two executives will no longer serve as deputy managing editors, John Bussey and Edward Felsenthal.

Brauchli said he is discussing a writing role with Bussey, who has been based in Hong Kong, while Felsenthal will work on projects related to the Journal’s growing coverage of non-business topics, which include its “Weekend Journal” section on Fridays, a “Personal Journal” section during the week and a “Pursuits” section which appears on Saturdays.

Brauchli said the timing and extent of the editorial changes were unrelated to the ongoing discussions between Murdoch and the Bancroft family, which controls the shareholder vote of Dow Jones.

The Bancroft family is expected to deliver a proposal to Murdoch on Wednesday for installing measures to safeguard the Journal’s editorial independence in the event of a sale.

Murdoch has offered to buy Dow Jones for $60 a share, well above the mid-$30’s price level the stock had been trading at prior to his offer. That values the company at $5 billion, a price that many analysts believe is too high to be matched by a competing bidder.

The Bancroft family initially rebuffed Murdoch, and a union representing Dow Jones employees remains staunchly opposed to Murdoch’s bid, saying he would likely interfere with the Journal’s news coverage. The union is reaching out to other potential bidders, and is working with supermarket mogul Ron Burkle on possible alternatives to the bid from Murdoch, but so far no other serious contenders have emerged.

In other changes, Bill Grueskin, who had been overseeing the Journal’s Web site, was named deputy managing editor for news, overseeing all aspects of the Journal’s news operation in both print and online.

Brauchli said the structural changes to the Journal’s newsroom had been under consideration even before he took over the job of managing editor from Paul Steiger on April 18. On that day former CEO Peter Kann also departed as chairman after 43 years with the company.

“When I took this job, we had been talking for a long time about how we can maximize our effectiveness across platforms, in print or online,” Brauchli said. “I’m reasonably certain that with or without me these things would have happened anyway.”

Also, Mike Miller, who had been editor of the Journal’s front page for the past seven years, will become deputy managing editor for enterprise journalism. Mike Williams, the editor of the paper’s European edition, will become editor of the front page.