Incoming WSJ ME: We had a great 2012, but need more scoops in 2013
by Chris Roush
Incoming Wall Street Journal managing editor Gerard Baker sent the following email to the staff on Monday afternoon:
It’s an extraordinary privilege for me to take the reins this week from Robert Thomson as Editor in Chief and to lead Dow Jones into the next phase of our history. I’m especially fortunate and proud to work with a team of reporters and editors who produce the finest journalism in the world. As we complete one era and start another, I want to take a moment to thank you for your outstanding work in the last year and to articulate our principal objectives for 2013.
In 2012 the Journal solidified its status as the number one newspaper in America, with a total circulation of almost 2.3m. Our digital footprint expanded dramatically in the US and around the globe. The WSJ Digital Network recorded a 16% surge in readers to a monthly average of 58.2 million, while overall visits to our sites were up a healthy 8.4%. We launched a number of foreign language websites and expanded the reach of our existing ones; 22% of our global online traffic now comes from the local language sites. Dow Jones Newswires continued to be the indispensable provider of financial news and information to the world’s economic leaders.
We’ve achieved all this by pursuing the simple objective of rigorous, reliable and rapid reporting of the stories that matter.
In a bewilderingly competitive news field, scoops are the only guarantee of survival. The list of our exclusives this year – scoops that moved markets, changed policy, transformed perceptions or simply left readers everywhere better informed – is too long to capture exhaustively but here are some of the highlights:
In business and finance we broke many of the biggest stories of the year: Kodak’s bankruptcy moment, J. P. Morgan’s Whale of a problem, all aspects of Facebook’s flawed IPO, the Fed’s latest experimentations with monetary policy, a succession of insider trading revelations, the bid for the NYSE by ICE, groundbreaking reporting on the digital invasion of our privacy.
In politics, we dominated the most remarkable story to have come out of China in the last 20 years: the fall of Bo Xilai and his wife and the murder of a British businessman, and its ramifications for a country in transition. In Europe we had market-moving enterprise stories on Europe’s debt crisis. We broke important news in investigating the lethal attacks on the US compounds in Benghazi. We uncovered new evidence of high-level corruption in Afghanistan. We had a number of important scoops on national security and intelligence, especially on the rise of the drones in US defense policy. We reported first on the disturbing rise in the incidence of tuberculosis around the world.
Significantly, these business and political scoops came from reporters and reporting teams in merged bureaux where the lines between who is a Journal reporter or editor and who is Newswires are increasingly irrelevant.
We covered big, complex, moving stories with speed and clarity: our Greater New York team especially distinguished themselves with their coverage of Superstorm Sandy and the tragedy in Newtown. Our Olympics coverage was quite unique – matched only by the intelligence and fun of the rest of our sports coverage through the year.
We analyzed and explained the biggest news stories better, more accurately and with more objectivity than anyone: the US election, the anemic US economic recovery, Europe’s continuing agonies; tensions in Asia, Africa’s rise, Latin America’s fragilities, turmoil in the Middle East, gyrations in global commodity, currency, bond and equity markets, the frailties of the world’s major banks. Our law and healthcare coverage was outstanding: memorably, we managed to be the first news organization to report that the Supreme Court had actually upheld Obamacare, and not that it had declared it unconstitutional, as some of our competitors did.
Our feature writing in arts and culture, fashion, health, entertainment and lifestyle was first-class and comprehensive – from Personal Journal and Arena to Review and Off Duty and WSJ Magazine, with of course Mansion already firmly established as the finest publication about aspirational property anywhere between the Hamptons and Silicon Valley (or between Monte Carlo and Fiji, for that matter)
It can be invidious and unfair to highlight one particular achievement but I am going to do that. The story that for some reason especially stands out in my head was “Bald is Powerful,” a widely read and admired examination of the irresistible rise of the follicly challenged in the business world.
So we advance, fearlessly and in some cases, hairlessly, from a position of strength, but more mindful than ever of the need to adapt quickly to meet the daunting challenges that confront the news business.
We have a great opportunity, if we get our strategy and execution right in the next few years, to be something unique and profitable for the long term: the dominant provider of financial and economic news and information for a growing global audience willing to pay for quality business news – in real time, digital and print formats – while at the same time being a full read for a broader audience that is increasingly discovering the richness and range of Journal journalism.
So here’s what we need to do in 2013:
Even More Scoops
As good as we have been in 2012 , we can get better. We should be dominating news coverage of all the important business and financial sectors globally, breaking the biggest stories as well as exploiting our expertise to analyze and explain them in real time: for the Newswires and online, and in more depth for the paper. This should be the overriding priority of everyone at Dow Jones and it will be the measure of our success – individually and collectively.
Unite Our Newsrooms
As I noted earlier, to help us enhance and expand our journalism, our principal immediate task is the completion of the integration of Newswires and the Journal.
This needs to be understood for what it is: a priceless opportunity for all of us. Done right it will significantly enhance our journalistic output. It will strengthen Newswires by increasing the number and frequency of our exclusives in key areas of interest to the business audience and by adding value to those exclusives with quick and concise analysis. It will eliminate needless duplication across the whole of Dow Jones, freeing up resources to deepen our core journalism. And it will produce a genuinely unified news organization that covers the full spectrum of news in a cohesive way across all our platforms.
Almar Latour will lead this process, developing a comprehensive plan and executing it in consultation with colleagues across Dow Jones.
Take Over the World
We will continue to seize the opportunity presented by global economic shifts to expand our presence around the world. We have made rapid advances in the last few years in Asia and Europe but we can do more – there and everywhere. We enjoy the best reputation for business journalism in the world – I’m determined that we will bring that journalism to an ever larger audience worldwide – in English and in local languages.
Technological innovation continues at a dizzying pace. The range and capacity of digital platforms will only multiply and we will need to continue to adapt rapidly to exploit every opportunity to convey our journalism in every form readers use, especially in the mobile space. In an earlier incarnation, I spent almost a decade in television news and I’m especially keen to explore how we might be able to exploit the proliferating opportunities available to us in video.
These are our principal strategic goals for the next year. They are underpinned of course at all times by the most important objective of all – maintaining the very highest ethical and journalistic standards.
In the next few weeks I will host a series of meetings with all Dow Jones news staff – in New York first for US-based staff, then in London and Hong Kong. I’ll fill in some more details of my thinking about the future and I’ll answer your questions.
In the meantime, thank you all for your contributions to Dow Jones’ success this year. I look forward to working more closely with all of you.