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Inside the Coming Wall Street Journal Shake-Up

The Daily Beast 3/13/2023 Lachlan Cartwright
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Freepik © Provided by The Daily Beast Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Freepik

This reporting is one of several scoops featured in this week’s edition of Confider, the newsletter pulling back the curtain on the media. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.

The Wall Street Journal appears poised for some serious changes as newly installed Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker’s vision takes shape.

Multiple people familiar with the situation told Confider that Tucker is extremely keen on shifting the paper away from commodity news and towards a hardcore focus on exclusives and investigations.

In an address to roughly 30 staffers in the San Francisco bureau last Tuesday, Tucker indicated she’s been unimpressed by the Journal’s current audience data and has begun a thorough content review to get a sense of which stories are being read and how, multiple attendees told us. Under the Tucker regime, expect to see less live-blogging in favor of broader news and analysis.

Furthermore, sources told us, Tucker intends to slash the paper’s laborious and time-consuming internal bureaucracy required to publish stories on page one—a major source of irritation for reporters at the Journal, we’re told.

The former Sunday Times editor was quizzed by staffers at the meeting about layoff rumors and while her response was “vague” Tucker did say she hopes cuts would be delayed a few months while she settles into the gig. Such murmurs come as the Journal quietly offers buyouts to staffers who’ve clocked 35 or more years of service, Confider has learned. Tucker was also grilled about diversity and said she thinks the Journal is doing a better job than her previous employer.

Last week, as Confider exclusively reported, Tucker ditched a reception in her honor at the British consulate (co-hosted by British ambassador Dame Karen Pierce and Tina Brown) to instead be with News Corp CEO Robert Thomson as he addressed Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media & Telecom Conference and attended “high-level meetings.”

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There’s been much chatter within the Journal about whether those meetings had anything to do with speculation that News Corp could spin off the Journal. When Thomson addressed the conference Tuesday afternoon, we hear he personally pointed out Tucker to the assembled crowd of CEOs.

Elsewhere, Tucker has already parachuted in one of her closest lieutenants from across the pond to take a top Journal job. Liz Harris, who was managing editor of The Sunday Times after stints at Sky and The Times, started at the Journal last week under the same title.

“Her 10 years of experience transforming newsrooms for digital-first and cross-title publishing will further our ongoing efforts to meet audiences where they are,” Tucker wrote in a March 3 newsroom memo, obtained and reviewed by Confider.

But journalists at The Sunday Times described Harris—who has pulled down her social-media accounts since taking on the new job—as a “divisive figure” who gutted the British newsroom with steep cost-cutting measures.

Harris replaced Karen Pensiero, a beloved newsroom figure, who after 37 years at the Journal was pushed out to make way for the Tucker pal, according to two people familiar with the situation. Pensiero was known to have her reporters’ backs and, according to sources, was an especially fierce advocate for women in the newsroom.

Sunday Times Associate Editor Taneth Evans, yet another Tucker confidant, is also set to join her former boss at the Journal as chief of staff, Confider has learned.

A rep for the Journal didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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