- Wall Street Journal staffers are bracing for layoff news as early as next week and other changes under its new EIC.
- News Corp., the Journal’s parent company, previously announced a 5% reduction across all businesses.
- Emma Tucker has shaken up the top editor ranks, and insiders expect changes to the editing process.
Wall Street Journal staffers are bracing for layoffs and broader changes under new top editor Emma Tucker.
Layoff speculation has swirled since the Journal’s parent, News Corp., back in February announced there would be a 5% reduction in staff — or about 1,250 roles — across all its businesses, as it faces economic headwinds along with the rest of the media sector.
A union exec offered the estimate that about 35 IAPE roles could be cut across all its members (IAPE, the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, is the union representing Dow Jones, the News Corp. unit that includes the Journal, Barron’s, and other products).
While News Corp. previously said cuts would take place before the end of 2023, some expect the company to make them before its new fiscal year starts July 1, as the union said it’s done in the past. May 31 is the cutoff for News Corp. to give IAPE notice of any union employees it plans to lay off before July 1.
While some believe the newsroom will be mostly spared, as it was in a January round, nerves are frayed. One audio staffer was laid off this past week, in keeping with Journal practice to quietly shed people in small numbers. “Everyone’s just teetering,” one insider said.
A Journal rep didn’t immediately comment.
Layoffs aren’t the only changes expected. Tucker took over Rupert Murdoch’s crown jewel in February after running his Sunday Times in London for three years, and she’s already made some big moves, installing some of her own people from the Sunday Times — Liz Harris and Taneth Evans — while showing longtime Journal editors Karen Pensiero, Neal Lipschutz, and Jason Anders the door.
Insiders say Tucker has been poring over data to understand how many stories are read online and for how long as part of a content review.
She’s already talked in meetings with staff about the slow and multi-layered process of stories landing coveted front-page real estate in the print edition. She has also questioned hidebound Journal traditions of having only one daily “leader,” Journal jargon for its daily front-page enterprise story, and always running an A-hed, the name for its quirky Page One feature.
People expect her to overhaul the cumbersome front-page editing process for top enterprise stories and deemphasize commodity news in favor of more investigative pieces, with specifics to come as early as June.
Tucker already swept away more than 100 years of tradition by doing away with honorifics like Mr. and Mrs. as well as corporate designations, calling honorifics “a vestige of a more-formal past.” Reporters have recently been told to cap online stories at 900 words, down from the previous limit of 1,000. Past top editors have also mandated word-count limits.
Tucker has largely received positive reviews so far — several people told Insider they think she’ll make the paper more lively and appealing to young people. She’s talked up the importance of diversity and, in a newsroom known for being top-down, she’s given the impression of having an open-door policy, inviting people to reach out any time. Many are glad to see the first female EIC of the paper.
“She’s not afraid to ask questions that are challenging Wall Street Journal orthodoxy,” a second insider said.
Not all Tucker’s changes are being received entirely positively. People expressed concern about the latest word count limit, saying such guidance can lead to choppy writing and necessary information and context being cut from articles.
Some like the idea of making the Journal sound more colloquial and contemporary by getting rid of honorifics. But others said honorifics were a key differentiator and felt the change was made too suddenly and without consultation.
At least one person wondered if the move was a sign of the type of leadership they could expect to see more of from Tucker — as if to say, “I’m in charge.”