OLD Media Moves

Zannino's task: I couldn't have said it better

January 6, 2006

This blogger neatly sums up the job facing incoming Dow Jones’ CEO Richard Zannino better than anything else I’ve read in the past couple of days:

“I hope that in his new job as Dow Jones’s chief executive officer, Richard Zannino takes a hard look at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial future. In my mind, the paper is stumbling forward.

“In September, when it launched the weekend edition, I snapped up a copy but then felt let down by it. The problem was that it read like a lifestyle magazine, albeit grayer and more prim than the New York Times. Indeed, the Times reported mixed reactions to the launch, quoting an unimpressed reader saying he found the content commonplace. Granted the Times’ rivalry with the Journal makes its criticisms suspect, nonetheless I have to agree because many others also have felt this way about the weekend edition.

“Zannino might want to ask why have it at all? After all, the Journal is peerless in its ability to break down the numbers and make sense of the free market. No other national paper has as much access to the Street and as much resources covering it. I’ve been told, for instance, that the Journal’s telecoms reporters outnumber those at the Times by 11 to 1.

“Wall Street is the Journal’s brand equity. The paper should be investing vast resources in covering the Stre”et better, faster and deeper, if it doesn’t already do so. And talking about “faster,” speed will be that much more critical if the Journal is serious about marrying its print and web divisions.

“Specifically, the paper should have beefed up its Money & Investing section, arguably its bread and butter. Instead, in the past months, it has gone on a hiring spree for lifestyle writers, whose addition to the paper has turned it into something more like the Times and less like itself.

“As an avid reader, I would vote to keep the weekend edition but instead of fashion, food and faux fur, I would prefer that it stayed on message with finance and business. After five heady days of breaking news, what it could do is step back from that informational deluge and tell readers what the week meant: who were the important players; why; what’s next and when. Also give them the hows, specifically the how-to on personal finance.

“While the weekend edition already does all that, it isn’t doing it from cover to back. But it should. In my view, that means beefing up the finance and business quotient of its staff writers, not dumbing it down with Fendi.”

For the hard-core business news reader, I think this comment is exactly on target with what the Wall Street Journal should be doing. Amen.

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