Thomson: Murdoch will invest in WSJ foreign news

While the staff of the New York suburban daily, Newsday, await news of who will be their next owner, reportedly with some apprehension, the staff at the Wall Street Journal are being reassured by their management that Murdoch has nothing but good things in store for their paper.

According to Robert Thomson, the Australian-born former editor of The Times who has inherited the managing editorship of the WSJ, Murdoch plans to spend up to $5m a year increasing the Journal’s foreign coverage. The paper will become more exciting, he assured.

Thomson, who is 47, has taken over the top job at the Journal following the resignation of Marcus Brauchli, who had held the job for only four months and was reportedly uneasy about the path the paper was taking under its new ownership. He has, however, agreed to stay on as a consultant.

Changes in the WSJ coverage have already been noted. Front-page coverage of politics has tripled, while coverage of business news on the front has been cut by half.

There is a smattering of sports and plans to launch a glossy celebrity-oriented magazine. Murdoch, according to Thomson, is also planning to add four pages of international news.

Thomson, a former copy boy on the Melbourne Herald, joined News Corp after several years on the staff of the Financial Times, including a stint in China.

Seven years ago – at the invitation of Murdoch – he joined The Times after being passed over as editor of the FT. He is credited with changing the appearance of The Times, shrinking it from a broadsheet to tabloid (or as he prefers to call it, compact) size – and even helped increase its circulation. He describes The Times as the happiest place to work in Fleet Street.

According to some insiders, he was a driving force in encouraging Murdoch to make an offer for Dow Jones, owners of the WSJ. That is why – at least for the moment – he is now running the Journal.

Old-timers (or traditionalists) at the Journal can be assured that he is not swayed by the paper’s history. “There is a great temptation”, he said recently in a lecture he gave in Australia, “to be so respectful of history that you are haunted by it. The truth is, if you are haunted by history, you will be history.”

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