OLD Media Moves

WSJ undergoes newsroom reorganization

July 12, 2017

Posted by Chris Roush

WSJ 2017Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker sent out the following announcement to the staff on Wednesday:

Since the birth of digital news a couple of decades ago, we at The Wall Street Journal have been committed exponents of change. We’ve repeatedly adjusted our publishing platforms and working patterns to fit the new realities. We have built a thriving online digital and mobile news operations. A large and rising share of our revenue derives from digital subscriptions and advertising. While maintaining a first-in-class print product, we’ve become increasingly digitally focused in our content, our delivery, our working practices and our mindset. In the last decade especially, much of our reporting and editing has shifted towards a digital workflow to serve a digital readership.

And yet, even as we have moved, the world has moved faster. Our response to date has been characterized by adaptation – extensive, certainly – but essentially we have simply adapted our existing structures to fit the changed context. We are still at our core a newspaper, a great one, founded 128 years ago this week, and the bones of our operations are still those of a traditional newsroom. 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. But eventually it’s time to tear down the old structure and build a new one. The pace of change, the proliferating adoption of new technology, the changing way in which our audience consumes news and information: all require something much more.

Our central mission remains of course unchanged: to produce the finest journalism for a rapidly growing audience of business-minded readers and viewers.

But we must ask ourselves a difficult question: what kind of news organization would we create to achieve that mission if we were launching it in the second half of 2017? This was the central idea behind WSJ 2020: the re-creation of The Wall Street Journal for a digital, especially mobile world.

For more than six months, teams of editors and reporters under the leadership of Matt Murray have been examining our workplace and considering how it could be better. We have benefitted enormously from your input. We’ve already begun implementing some important changes. Our audience awareness training program has spanned the globe and given us an important new set of tools to implement our journalism. We’ve begun to revamp video to focus on our core journalism with a mobile-first approach. We’ve dramatically upgraded our iOS mobile app, the first new version of which was unveiled just yesterday. We’ve begun to reinvigorate our professional news content with new products and a reorganization of Dow Jones Newswires: next week we’ll open a new professional news bureau in Barcelona, tasked to produce news and find new opportunities for professional news products. We’ve initiated a thorough reworking of our technology, an overhaul of our publishing platforms and our content management system so that across all our processes and products we will have among the most advanced systems anywhere, supported by teams of developers and engineers located right in the newsroom.

Now comes the critical part – the re-creation of the newsroom itself.

What I’m announcing today constitutes the most far-reaching reorganization of The Wall Street Journal in the digital age. It begins with the creation of a new leadership structure built for the contemporary media environment. We’re creating a number of completely new senior editorial positions and profoundly reimagining many others. Only a small number of jobs will remain largely as they are now.

In creating this new architecture, which will in turn change significantly the existing workflows and structures of the whole global news organization, we are following several key principles:

** We are building a mobile-first newsroom. This is at the heart of our transformation. Virtually all of our digital growth now is occurring on mobile. This requires a radical reorganization of our content and the way we produce it. It needs to be sharper, more visual, more digestible; the culture of the whole newsroom needs to change: to lead that culture change we need senior leadership in key new positions.

** We are reworking the news flow – The relationship between desks and bureaus. Reporters and bureau chiefs will be taking greater responsibility and accountability for their journalism. Visuals, video and audio will be an intrinsic part of the creation of stories. While we produce the world’s best journalism, too often we write too many stories; they are not conceived with a mobile audience in mind; they are often too long and prolix; they receive too many rewrites and edits; there isn’t enough time to deliver our most creative work to our audience; and our stories, lost in a sea of too many URLs and ineffective promotion, can fail to have the impact they should. The new newsroom leadership and the workflows we’re piloting will allow us to better prioritize our ideas, harness our creative energies earlier and then clear the way to publication to meet our audiences where and when they need our insights and news.

** This is not a job-cutting exercise. We’ve cut staff significantly in the last few years, as you know. 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. While print will remain a vital part of what we do – with a talented print-focused team that will deliver it – we need to ensure that we have the right people in the right jobs to create the best digital output.

** We need to introduce new faces, new skills and a greater diversity to our news leadership. If we are to thrive in the competitive environment newspapers face, we must ensure that we are hiring and promoting the best people. We need to be genuinely inclusive – and that starts with the leadership. We must have genuine equality of opportunity and a workforce that is properly rewarded and motivated.

With these principles in mind, the first step I’m announcing is a revamped senior newsroom leadership structure that will allow us to further strengthen our position as the source for the world’s best journalism for a business-focused audience.

This new dispensation addresses key issues that you have told us are important to you and that are critical for the future success of our newsroom: clarity of vision and roles; clear ownership, responsibility and accountability; more thinking and planning, less changing and repairing; improved communication; clearly defined, and understood workflows; and the optimization for mobile platforms of all of our journalism.

To achieve this, I am opening up the vast majority of the leadership positions to competition within the whole newsroom – and to candidates from outside the newsroom and the company. This is a radical step, but I believe a necessary one if we are to build the most productive workplace possible. Senior editors will have an opportunity and are welcome to apply for similar roles within the new structure – along with anyone in the newsroom who thinks that she or he may be right for the role.

A handful of senior jobs will not be opened up and will continue to be done by the editors currently in place. These are cases where special factors apply – usually that the incumbent has been in the current, similar role for only a matter of months. But I stress, the bulk of the new newsroom leadership is open to all-comers.

I encourage you to read the job descriptions, then talk with Matt, Karen Pensiero, Christine Glancey or me about the logic behind the structure. I hope you’ll give serious consideration to how you could be part of this important change. I’m looking for new voices and visions to help lead our journalism forward. I will be hosting a series of town halls next Monday. There will be three meetings, each open to all staff, at times made as convenient as possible for your time zone. Please come and ask questions.

We are moving quickly. These jobs will all be posted today and applications are open until July 26th. There will of course be more opportunities and new roles after that date as we build out the structure.

The key roles are as follows:

Matt Murray, as my sole deputy, takes on overall responsibility for news across all our platforms. Reflecting his enhanced role, he’ll assume the new title of Executive Editor.

Also reporting to me will be a number of senior editors whose responsibilities can be primarily characterized as strategic in nature:

A Managing Editor, responsible for finance, personnel, infrastructure, and related items. This person will be the primary newsroom contact for our commercial colleagues on all non-news matters. She or he will lead a team that will promote talent, balance and diversity across our newsroom in line with the company-wide goals laid out by Will Lewis in his note this week.

An Editor, Professional, who will serve as content chief for all our professional products, including Dow Jones Newswires and other content targeted at specialized audiences.

An Editor, Digital Content Strategy, who will identify developments in digital storytelling, including methods, technologies and platforms, and pioneer our strategies for them.

An Editor, Strategic Initiatives, responsible for exploring new opportunities that will expand the reach of the Journal’s business and engender new revenue opportunities.

An Editor, Features, Special Content & Live Journalism, who will manage our weekly feature sections, Journal Reports, and the WSJ Magazine, as well as our growing live journalism and events business.

A handful of other editors will remain in place and will continue to report to me: Thorold Barker, Editor, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Neal Lipschutz, Editor, Standards and Ethics, Andrew Dowell, Editor, Asia-Pacific, Ann Podd, Editor, News Production and Rajiv Pant, Chief Technology Officer (with a joint-report to the company’s CTO).

Reporting to Matt will be a number of new roles:

The Chief News Editor, who will drive the daily agenda for the newsroom, oversees the coverage chiefs, platform editors and the editing desk, and is responsible for ensuring that we provide the fastest, most accurate, most intelligent news reporting anywhere.

A News Planning Editor to set the WSJ’s news agenda for content 48 hours to 12 months ahead, working closely with me and Matt and with the coverage chiefs to drive thematic coverage priorities.

An Analytics & Audience Editor, who will design and run audience data tools, research and insight in the newsroom and show our staff how the data can help in day-to-day decision-making.

An Enterprise Editor, who, much as now, drives the Journal’s marquee journalistic work and ensures the excellence of our enterprise storytelling.

A Chief Video/Audio Editor, who sets and implements strategy for all WSJ video and audio coverage globally, focusing on mobile-first delivery and formats and strategies for third-party platforms.

Shazna Nessa, Chief Visuals Editor and and Mike Siconolfi, Investigations Editor will stay in post and will also report to Matt.

Once we have filled these positions within the next month, we will move quickly to fill other senior roles. Among them:

Coverage Chiefs for World, U.S., Finance, Corporate, Life & Arts, and – separately from now on – for our Washington team. These will take on the enhanced role of more closely overseeing visuals and social planning and the publication process for our story packages, and they will lead the coverage of their areas globally, working closely with designated editors in London and Hong Kong.

A Writing & Editing Chief to focus on improving the quality of our writing and editing.

Platform Editors overseeing the tailoring of content to be most engaging for our audiences on Mobile, Browser, and Off-Platform/Social, and a Digital News Editor to work with them on implementing strategy and setting standards.

An Editorial Lab, whose leader will experiment with new storytelling technologies and techniques with a group of developers and journalists.

Additional roles will be created within the office of the Managing Editor, two deputies for the Chief News Editor, and other new top editor roles for our growing suite of professional products.

These jobs, and more details about each role, will be posted on our microsite today.

All these roles will involve editing and managing responsibility for large swathes of our journalism. But as important will be the task of leading cultural change across the newsroom. The mobile-first priority is not something that can be achieved only by senior editors. It requires a fundamental change in the way we all view our roles and the execution of our journalism.

One final, but essential point: As important as this reorganization is, we must not lose sight of our principal objective: to produce the finest journalism for a business-minded audience. Central to this is the opportunity for us to produce fast, analytical, accurate professional news. The future of our business in many ways depends on this particular strand of our newsgathering.

Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal journalism must be rigorous, fair, objective, accurate and distinctive. In an age of uncertainty about the viability and even the validity of quality news reporting, our responsibility to produce journalism of genuine value has never been greater. We are the most trusted brand in journalism and we have an opportunity to reach an ever larger audience around the world that craves penetrating and fair reporting on the issues of greatest importance to informed readers, especially in the fields of business, markets, finance and economics.

With this new architecture in place, and with our highly talented leadership, I’m confident that we will have a newsroom fully equipped to meet that responsibility.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry daily or weekly.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry.