Media News

Tofel on the purge at the Wall Street Journal

February 22, 2024

Posted by Chris Roush

Richard Tofel, a former attorney and associate publisher at The Wall Street Journal, writes about the decline of its culture.

Tofel writes, “In the last 14 months, and with the advent of the most recent of the editors, things have changed rapidly, and brutally. The editor-in-chief, managing editor (now the number two role), two deputy editors-in-chief, the editors responsible for enterprise and investigative stories and the Washington bureau chief have all left their posts, almost all of them abruptly. Every one of them had begun at the paper pre-Murdoch, most well before. More recent arrivals also departing in this seeming purge have included the standards editor, the visuals editor and the top editor in Europe, all of them regarded by the veterans as very much in the traditional cultural mode.

“But it’s the way this was done, rather than the sheer scale of it, that has alarmed me most. Most of the firings have been brutal, pointlessly so. Staff members with decades of loyal and effective service have been peremptorily dismissed, many forced to leave their offices within a matter of hours. The last two years of the tenure of the previous editor were marked by almost open warfare with the publisher, and ended with more than a month in which the editor was left publicly hanging after he had apparently been privately defenestrated. The managing editor, a 37-year employee, seems to have had a week between notice and exit from the premises. Such was the haste that one of the deputy EICs’ departure was announced while he, after 25 years of service following graduation from DePauw, was at home with COVID.

“Then, a few weeks ago, the hammer came down at the Journal’s Washington bureau. The bureau chief had already been dispatched, apparently after pushing back on cuts. News of impending layoffs came first from competing publications; two mornings later, three managers arrived from New York, convened a five minute meeting to say that emails would be forthcoming at the stroke of Noon to those affected, turned on their heels, and left. In the event, some of the emails were a bit late.”

Read more here.

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