ADJOURNED: The departure of Wall Street Journal managing editor Marcus Brauchli Tuesday seemed to confirm some of the worst fears the paper’s old guard had about Rupert Murdoch’s ownership. And they could only have been heightened once Dow Jones confirmed that Robert Thomson, a Murdoch appointee, will serve as interim managing editor in addition to being publisher. But a spokesman said the position wouldn’t be permanent given Thomson’s larger portfolio of Dow Jones properties.
This story first appeared in the April 23, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Still, while a few names were circulated as possible successors Tuesday with little certainty they were actual candidates, Thomson’s temporary taking of the editorial reins indicates Murdoch, who has been spending a lot of time in the Journal newsroom, wants a managing editor more amenable to his demands and the rapid changes he seeks at a paper previously known for its insularity.
Brauchli, named to the top post mere months before Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the paper, spent nearly 25 years with the Journal and was well liked. One Journal reporter said Brauchli had always been regarded as “the canary in the coal mine” of the acquisition: “The longer he stayed, the more comfortable people at the paper would be.”
Another described the newsroom mood as “stunned and upset. He was the safety net. He was the guardian, and he laid down the sword and walked away. Our general went AWOL.”
According to the company, Brauchli will be consulting to the Journal and “exploring the possibility of a business news channel for [Murdoch’s] STAR TV in Asia.”
His resignation, which is officially being termed as by mutual assent, came within the last two weeks, and speculative chatter in some parts of the newsroom began in the last week. Though several theories circulated Tuesday, Brauchli is said to have told confidants that the pace of change demanded by News Corp. — a redesign of page one, a reorganized newsroom, shorter stories, more breaking news and general-interest coverage — was too fast, particularly since it involved retraining a staff that was largely the same. Said one person close to the paper, “By Journal standards, what’s been happening in the past four months has been at warp speed. But in terms of what Murdoch wants, it’s just not fast enough.” People in the newsroom also believe Brauchli resisted cutting the number of editors on staff, though there has been no open discussion of specific departments or numbers.
The special committee set up to maintain editorial independence in the wake of the sale met Tuesday afternoon with Brauchli and News Corp. and Dow Jones representatives, according to a company statement. Shortly afterwards, Brauchli wrote an e-mail to the newsroom that “now that the ownership transition has taken place, I have come to believe the new owners should have a managing editor of their choosing….Since the acquisition last December, the new management scrupulously has avoided imposing any political or business viewpoints on our coverage and rigorously has enforced the code of conduct. I am confident that our journalistic integrity remains intact and that News Corp. is committed to a Journal that is vibrant, vital and preeminent in American journalism.”
The news broke on time.com late Monday, and online reports by The New York Times and the Journal itself followed. A rumor circulated among some at the paper that time.com had gotten a tip from a News Corp. executive eager for the Times to get scooped; others saw it as a way to placate Time for the major access Newsweek got for its Murdoch story that appeared this week.
— Irin Carmon
FT IN CHINA: A host of luxury brands have lined up to open stores in China in recent months, and now The Financial Times is hoping to expand into the region — and, presumably, to get a slice of brands’ advertising spend in China along the way.
An FT spokesman on Tuesday confirmed a Reuters report that the FT, which is owned by London-based Pearson plc, will launch a Chinese language lifestyle and wealth management title in the region this year, ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing. He added that it was likely the magazine’s formula would be similar to that of the FT’s existing luxury supplement, How To Spend It. The spokesman also described the magazine’s reported title, Rui, as a working one. “We plan to launch a Chinese language magazine under the FT brand aimed at China’s growing business elite,” the FT said. “It will be a quality lifestyle/wealth management title…we are currently finalizing details, including a launch date.”
The spokesman said the magazine would be wholly owned by the FT, and that the company would potentially work with publishing partners in the region.
— Nina Jones
MODEL MOM: Christie Brinkley was honored at the second annual Smart Cookie Awards monday night for reasons beyond just her advocacy for children’s health. The model was given the honor for supporting the Global Security Institute and the Tooth Fairy Project, an organization that studies the health effects nuclear reactors have on communities by examining kid’s baby teeth. But she was also praised by attendees for looking decades younger than her 54 years of age in a slim-fitting red strapless dress, looking more like the older sister of Alexa Ray Joel, her daughter. Joel’s remarks about her mother as she presented Brinkley with her award also seem to reflect both the model’s good deeds and good genes. “We all know how much this generation needs role models,” Joel said. “I can’t think of a better role model than my mom.” Other honorees included Lee Woodruff, wife of ABC news correspondent Bob Woodward; “Lipstick Jungle” actress Kim Raver; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who missed the event because she was filming her sitcom, “The New Adventures of Old Christine” in Los Angeles, and Karenna Gore Schiff. Recipients of the awards were given pendants designed by Me&Ro with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt engraved on the back: “If you care for your children you must take an interest in all.”
— Stephanie D. Smith