OLD Media Moves

Will Natalie Portman portray this WSJ editor?

September 26, 2012

Posted by DeanRotbart

The life stories of some influential journalists are just as fascinating as the public figures they chronicle.

As Page One editor of The Wall Street Journal — a post she assumed one year ago — Rebecca Blumenstein covets profiles of men and woman whose personal and professional journeys intrigue, inspire and stand to educate readers.

As it turns out, she needn’t look farther than the living room mirror to spot one such compelling tale.

Indeed, Blumenstein and her husband, Alan Paul, are already the central characters in a popular auto-biographical book, “Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues and Becoming a Star in Beijing,” written by the 46-year-old Paul.

Ivan Reitman, the producer and/or director of movie hits including “Animal House,” “Ghostbusters,” “Private Parts,” “Disturbia,” “Up in the Air” and “No Strings Attached,” is developing the tale of the Blumenstein-Paul family sojourn in China into a motion picture.

 (No word yet on which actors will portray Blumenstein and Paul, although Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman did star in Reitman’s “No Strings Attached.”)

In short, “Big in China,” which HarperCollins published in March 2011, is Paul’s humorous and heartwarming account of his time as a trailing spouse who set aside his own career to look after the kids while Blumenstein served three-and-a-half years as the Journal’s China bureau chief from 2005 to 2008.

In 2007, Blumenstein and her colleagues won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for their China coverage.

Blumenstein remains one of the paper’s top experts on China, Chinese policy and the Chinese economy.  She and her family returned to the U.S. in late 2008 and she subsequently focused her energies on overseeing the paper’s international news coverage, as well as serving a brief stint as managing editor of WSJ.com

Today, Blumenstein, who turns 46 this week and also carries the title Deputy Managing Editor at the Journal, is – in my opinion, at least – the most influential female editor at the paper.  In her position as Page One editor, she drives the paper’s daily news agenda and shepherds its attention-grabbing features and investigations.

As Robert Thomson, the Journal’s managing editor, noted in announcing Blumenstein’s appointment a year ago, her job is to “ensure that our stories have maximum impact, here and abroad, and across languages and platforms.” Thomson added that Blumenstein will be charged with generating original ideas “and pursue angles beyond the means or wit of our competitors.”

That’s influence.  And consistent with the legacy of some great previous Journal Page One editors – including Alix M. Freedman, Mike Williams, James B. Stewart and Glynn Mapes – Blumenstein’s real role is one that unfolds primarily out-of-public view.

Paul, a musician and longtime senior writer for Guitar World and Slam magazines, began blogging for WSJ.com from China.  In his column, “The Expat Life,” he shared details of his Far East adventure, trying to raise the couple’s three young children, and seeking out meaningful experiences for himself and his family.  (Paul and Blumenstein, both graduates of the University of Michigan, met as student journalists at The Michigan Daily.)

The column proved a hit, which led to the book, which landed him a movie contract and which has launched him on a new career trajectory, one that in public at least is likely to eclipse that of his influential wife.

While Paul was in China, he formed a blues band with three Chinese musicians – Woodie Alan, which found its groove and was named Beijing’s 2008 Band of the Year.

For “The Expat Life,” Paul was named Online Columnist of the Year by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.  When Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics, he reported on them for NBC, Sports Illustrated and other media outlets.

Most recently, he has published an eBook, “One Way Out: An Oral History of the Allman Brothers Band,” a group he has closely watched and admired for many years.

Blumenstein and Paul are now, once again, back to their so-called “normal” lives, at home in Maplewood, N.J.  Their eldest child had his Bar Mitzvah in South Orange in June 2011, and for him and his younger brother and sister, China is no doubt a rapidly fading memory.

Blumenstein’s and Paul’s tale is one worthy of a feature film and one that certainly merits front-page coverage in the Wall Street Journal.  If only they knew who to pitch it to.

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