During three separate staff meetings Monday, The Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker elaborated on the newsroom reorganization he revealed late last week, designed to make the News Corp.-owned publication mobile-first.
That plan, part of parent company Dow Jones’ “WSJ 2020,” is being billed as a dramatic re-imagining of content and workflow process to adapt to the digital age. The main thrust of Monday’s meetings, according to insiders, was a presentation designed to clarify last week’s announcement. Questions were mainly logistical. Baker reiterated that, although positions may shift towards digital, the reorganization is not expected to lead to a significant headcount reduction.
“This is not a job-cutting exercise,” Baker wrote in a memo that went out to staff last week. “In this reorganization, I envisage our total headcount remaining roughly stable. But within that, we need to allocate our resources so that we are tilted much more towards a digital and mobile base.”
In a metaphor that would be at home in the Journal’s “Mansion” section, which covers the world of luxury real estate, Baker likened the paper to a once-grand home that is in need of a gut-renovation. “Our news operations have been somewhat like an elegant and rather gorgeous stately home, whose owners have steadily augmented and renovated, rewiring every now and then, adding a new plumbing system, repainting, refurbishing,” the memo said. “But eventually it’s time to tear down the old structure and build a new one.”
As part of this reorganization, deputy editor Matt Murray was promoted to the role of executive editor. The plan also called for a number of newly created senior management roles that are strategic, and digitally focused, in nature — such as a “news planning editor,” an “analytics and audience editor,” and a “chief video/audio editor.” The positions are open to both internal and external candidates — or, as Baker made it sound on Monday, virtually every job in top management is up for grabs, according to a source.
Much like The New York Times, which has been reducing mid-level editor and copy editor roles, Baker spoke about slimming down the editorial structure. Although, an insider noted, Baker’s speech was heavy on “corporate speak” — making it hard to parse.
And all the talk of a newsroom reorganization is not just figurative. At the Monday meetings, according to a source, Baker said that the actual newsroom is going to be reconfigured so that he and Murray will sit at the center and the staff will “fan out from there” — a physical manifestation of a new digital structure, which is reminiscent of a plan he previously mentioned in early 2016.