Takeover day at the Wall Street Journal

Today is the day when the Dow Jones shareholders are likely to formally approve Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of the Wall Street Journal’s parent company.

Not that he has not already made his presence felt. For some weeks Murdoch has occupied an out-of-the way office in the Wall Street Journal’s headquarters in New York.

There he has been meeting with top executives and discussing with them his plans for the paper. “He is not wasting any time. He’s already calling the shots,” said one Dow Jones executive.

And what are these plans? He has revealed little of his intentions – but there are some clues. Firstly he has made no secret that his main target will be the New York Times, for years the leading newspaper in the United States. To do this he will increase the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of politics and national and international affairs.

He also wants to sharpen up the news coverage. No more long news features. There has been talk of a front page with stories short enough to start and end there. Even taking away the words “Wall Street” out of the title. But both these ideas have been dismissed – for the moment anyway.

In walks through the newsroom and the printing plant Murdoch has spent a lot of time talking to employees about their work. At the same time he has displayed his command and knowledge of newspaper production. Even, according to the New York Times, how the presses are run.

There are, it’s already agreed, certain to be some staff changes. The newsroom may see a lot of new faces. So may the Washington bureau. Several of the New York staff are being shifted there. There may be some firing – but those who are made to leave have been promised compensation.

The intention , it’s said, is not reduce the staff – but to make way for new staff who are expected to be hired. Mainly for sections of the paper that Murdoch wants to expand.

So far about ten reporters and editors who have publicly voiced their unhappiness at the Murdoch takeover have left the paper and have not yet been replaced. A number of others are said to be still scouting for jobs on other papers. So far the defections are not large scale.

A year from now, however, it is predicted that the majority of the staff could be new journalists not rooted to the old traditions of The Journal.

Also gone probably will be those on the staff who opposed the News Corp takeover and questioned Murdoch’s journalistic methods – and ethics.

“It has the makings of a pretty big cultural shift,” one veteran member of the staff is quoted in the New York Times.

How does the staff feel as Take-over Day becomes imminent?

One old time reporter voiced the feelings of many. “A lot of us” he said ‘are worried about what this place will become. But right now out attitude is ‘wait and see.'”

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