Wall Street Journal announces major reshuffle

Newspaper facing a $5bn (£2.5bn) takeover attempt from Rupert Murdoch is integrating its print and online operations. By Katie Allen.

The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper facing a $5bn (£2.5bn) takeover attempt from Rupert Murdoch, tonight announced a major newsroom reshuffle to integrate its print and online operations.

Citing "profound changes sweeping the news business" but making no mention of News Corp's contentious bid for its owner Dow Jones, the Journal said the changes were designed to simplify its international news structure.

"We have been as agile as anyone at adapting to change in recent years," said managing editor Marcus Brauchli. "Yet simply to maintain our standing, we must adapt to constant change."

One of the key changes is the promotion of Wall Street Journal Online's managing editor Bill Grueskin to deputy managing editor for news.

America's second most popular newspaper after USA Today wants to uphold its reputation for in-depth reporting while also catering for well-served audiences that increasingly take instant news reports for granted.

Mr Grueskin's mission will be to draw on Dow Jones reporters around the world and balance timely news stories with "the long-form, deeply reported and analytic journalism that defines the Journal", the paper said in a statement. It also named an executive editor for online and a deputy managing editor for international news.

The shake-up comes as the newspaper's controlling Bancroft family seeks reassurances from Mr Murdoch that editorial independence would be protected in the event of a buyout.

The family, descendants of Clarence Barron who bought joint control of Dow Jones in 1902, had initially rejected the bid from Mr Murdoch's News Corp.

But they have since met with him to discuss a possible buyout and were expected to send off proposals by today on what editorial safeguards they want in place.

Meanwhile, Dow Jones employees are actively seeking alternative bidders to Mr Murdoch, fearing that he would interfere in the running of the Journal.

The media mogul is thought to have proposed an autonomous editorial board along the lines of the one he created at the Times and Sunday Times but Dow Jones union members say that structure has not worked.

The union leader trying to fend off Mr Murdoch tonight admitted plans to find alternative buyers are a "long-shot" but rebuffed talk a sale is virtually a done deal.

Steven Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees conceded any other buyer would have to raise huge sums of money.

"I think that what we are doing is admittedly a long-shot, $5bn is a lot of money," he said. "But it is not beyond the realms of possibility."

There are models on the table right now that would allow that kind of financing package if the Bancroft family is interested in selling to investors that are in partnership with the union.

There was still a chance the Journal and its owner Dow Jones could hang on to the independence they have enjoyed for more than a century in the hands of the controlling Bancroft family, Mr Yount said.

"There has been no indication that the Bancroft family is interested in selling the paper," said Mr Yount. "There is certainly a segment of the Bancroft family that doesn't want to sell."

"This is not something that anyone is anxious to have happen and I don't believe that it's a done deal. I still think there are a number of things that could happen," he added.

So far the union, representing more than 2,000 Dow Jones employees, has claimed the support of US billionaire Ron Burkle and said that an unspecified "Wall Street group" and an internet entrepreneur were possibly interested in bidding.

Brian Tierney, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, has also said he might join a consortium to bid if Dow Jones was thrown open to a formal auction process.

Katie Allen

The GuardianTramp

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