OLD Media Moves

Where the WSJ is headed

December 29, 2006

Editor & Publisher is a long piece taking a look at the changes that will occur at The Wall Street Journal next week. Perhaps the most interesting part of the story for business journalists at the paper is near the end, when the discussion turns to staffing levels.

Jennifer Saba wrote, “If [publisher Gordon] Crovitz has his way, he plans to buck the trend of gutting the newsroom. He thinks the new Journal and reorganization of the company will allow Dow Jones to maintain staffing levels. Zannino has been saying the same thing: He told Wall Street Journalhis paper when he was appointed chief officer that Dow Jones “can’t expense its way to profitability.” (Zannino declined to be interviewed for this story.)

“As for the intentions of keeping the newsroom fat and happy, some staffers are cynical. For unionized employees — which means practically everyone at Dow Jones, save management and security guards — it could come down to another nasty fight similar to the long negotiations and byline strike that occurred three years ago. The current contract expires in January 2007, and both sides have submitted outlines. The negotiations are still in the early stages, but already union members have stopped making appearances on CNBC (to which Dow Jones provides content) due to the shaky nature of the talks thus far.

“Management ‘made some very draconian proposals,’ says E.S. ‘Jim’ Browning, a 27-year staff reporter at the Journal who is chairman of the bargaining committee for the union. Browning was so incensed by the previous negotiations that he and other reporters decided to get more involved with the union.

“Management’s first stab at a contract includes the doubling of annual health care premiums, meager wage increases of 2% a year (which doesn’t even keep up with inflation, Browning notes), and the elimination of the seniority protection clause (first hired, last fired).

Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publisher’s Employees (IAPE) and a news anchor on Wall Street Journal radio, is cautioning management where to make cuts. ‘It’s one thing to tell people to share a printer,’ he says. ‘It’s quite another to ravage health care.’

“Yount hasn’t written anyone off yet. ‘I think Gordon Crovitz is a very good man, and is honest about preserving the quality of the Wall Street Journal and all the products at Dow Jones’ he says. ‘From everything Gordon has told me, I have no reason to believe he is not serious.’

“Some newsroom staffers, however, are afraid that the Journal 3.0 concept is less about transformation and more about dealing with cost-cutting measures. Several reporters who did not want to be named said they are doubtful they will get more time to write long-form journalism, especially since the paper is losing space. They fear that all Journal 3.0 will amount to is more work on more platforms.”

Read more here.

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