WSJ ME Thomson: Reporters will be judged on whether they break news



Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson sent the following memo — which signals that Dow Jones plans to compete more aggressively against Reuters, Bloomberg and AP — to all Journal and Dow Jones Newswire reporters on Thursday:

“There is no doubt that co-operation between Newswires and Journal journalists has improved markedly over the past year, but true fraternity remains more nascent than mature. Our structure must complement the needs of all Dow Jones readers and reflect the contemporary value of what is crudely called ‘content.’

“A breaking corporate, economic or political news story is of crucial value to our Newswires subscribers, who are being relentlessly wooed by less worthy competitors. Even a headstart of a few seconds is priceless for a commodities trader or a bond dealer – that same story can be repurposed for a range of different audiences, but its value diminishes with the passing of time. 

“Given that revenue reality, henceforth all Journal reporters will be judged, in significant part, by whether they break news for the Newswires. This is a fundamental shift in orientation which will also require a fundamental change in the inaptly named Speedy system.

“The Speedy was designed with a simple objective: the urgent dissemination of breaking news unearthed by WSJ reporters.  Apart from being an important facet of the Newswires service, the system was intended to enhance the newspaper’s reputation as the world’s leading source of financial, business and general news. 

“In the age of digitally compressed content, the Speedy should have been a defining advantage for Dow Jones – but, alas, too many of these items were written in a way which neither made sense to Newswires users nor maximized the value of the news they sought to convey.

“The system is in need of revolution, not reform. We must all think of ourselves as Dow Jones journalists and, at the least, have some comprehension of the life-cycle of a news story and its relative worth to our readers around the world. Not all content demands to be free and our content, in particular, has a value that  is sometimes better recognised by our readers than our journalists. That we have multiple opportunities to generate income from this content is in stark contrast to many other revenue-challenged news organizations, which have not sold their soul – they have merely given it away.

“With these objectives in mind, we are sending Speedy to the knackery and saddling up a successor,  the URGENT. New nomenclature alone will not generate news, so there must also be basic changes of principle and practice at the Journal. A guide to the new system will be published next week and we are aiming to launch on April 15. In coming days, please raise any relevant issues with your bureau chief or editor. There is much angst-ridden, vacuous debate about the fate of American journalism – this is an important practical measure to secure the long-term future of journalists at Dow Jones.”