By: Joe Strupp
Newsroom union members at The Wall Street Journal are looking at the resignation of Managing Editor Marcus Brauchli as the loss of “a buffer who would maintain editorial independence,” according to the union’s top leader.
Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, said word that Brauchli is planning to step down after less than a year in the top editing post has drawn concern among members who believed he helped keep some newsroom independence under the new News Corp. ownership.
“It was reassuring that he was there because he was not a News Corp. guy,” Yount said Tuesday. “They had hopes he was maintaining the editorial independence.”
Rumors in the Journal newsroom have Money & Investing Section Editor Nik Deogun as a top replacement front-runner, according to sources.
The new editorial independence committee will have a role in choosing a successor to Brauchli, if any. The five-person committee — created last year after the News Corp. sale — met via conference call today, according to a Journal Web story.
“The purpose of the call isn’t clear. While the committee has to approve hiring of a new managing editor, the agreement covering its creation says nothing about its role if the editor resigns,” the Journal story said. “The committee was created in a negotiation between News Corp. and Dow Jones leading up to last year’s sale.”
But the special committee designed to protect the editorial integrity of the newspaper will indeed have oversight and approval over the hiring of a new managing editor, a News Corp. source told E&P this afternoon.
The special committee, created last year following the News Corp. purchase, includes: Louis Boccardi, former president and chief executive officer of the Associated Press; Thomas J. Bray, former reporter and bureau chief in The Wall Street Journal news department; Jack Fuller, retired president of the Tribune Publishing Co.; Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Susan M. Phillips, dean of the George Washington University School of Business.
A Dow Jones announcement about Brauchli’s resignation as managing editor said he would become a consultant. Its only reference to the editorial committee stated: “the announcement was made after a meeting between the members of the Special Committee designed to protect the editorial integrity of the newspaper, Mr. Brauchli and representatives from Dow Jones and News Corporation.”
Dow Jones spokesman Robert Christie declined to comment on Brauchli’s departure or any successor. He referred calls to News Corp. spokeswoman Teri Everett, who was not immediately available for comment.
Yount said he had no word on who might be a replacement or how much of a change will occur under a new newsroom leader. “Anytime you see this kind of change, you will see questions about it,” he said. “Our bottom line has always been the quality of the Journal and defending our membership.”
He said Brauchli’s departure after such a short stint is a concern. “It is terrible to see him leave after such a short period of time,” Yount declared. “It is difficult to know how that fight was going. We don’t know how many of the changes were his idea, or how many he opposed and how much he fought against them. I would imagine that there is a small handful of people who would know what the truth is.”
As for the editorial independence committee, Yount did not place much faith in its having an impact on Brauchli’s replacement. He said no one should expect anything other than a Rupert Murdoch selection: “I don’t think anyone seriously believes that Rupert was not going to run Dow Jones and run the Wall Street Journal. Anyone who thinks there was any chance that this would not happen is mistaken.”