As part of a greater restructuring by Dow Jones & Co., the Wall Street Journal is offering voluntary severance packages to a “substantial number” of news employees worldwide, reports CNN Money. The news was announced last week in a staff email from editor-in-chief Gerard Baker.
The goal is to limit staff layoffs through the buyouts. Staff have until the end of the month to take advantage of the voluntary severance, though the company has the right to reject volunteers.
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“I regret of course the need for such a move and I appreciate deeply the dedication all of you continue to show through challenging times,” Baker said in the memo. “Thanks to your hard work, the news department continues to produce world-class journalism every day, and I’m confident this process is the right one to set us on the right footing for renewed growth in the years ahead.”
Later in the day editor Ed Finn from Barron’s, also owned by Dow Jones & Co., sent a follow-up email, mistakenly addressing it to the entire WSJ newsroom instead of the intended executive and human relations staff, revealing layoffs to occur at Barron’s, the Dow Jones’s weekly business magazine, next week, reports the Wall Street Journal.
According to CNN Money, Finn wrote, “The email Gerry Baker just sent about wsj buyouts says that dj is offering 1.5x the standard buyout package. Are we planning to go to the employees we are laying off at Barron’s next week and offer them 1x the standard package? That could create some problems. Please advise.”
This news comes just two days after the Wall Street Journal announced a “substantial revamp” of its print newspaper as its parent company reviews operations to cut costs. This review has been dubbed WSJ2020, as the newspaper creates an action plan for the next three years to rebalance revenue. According to the Wall Street Journal, the cost-cutting measures are necessary because of a “significant decline in print advertising.”
“These are challenging times. I thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we set about the difficult task of continuing to build our digital future while responding to the decline in traditional advertising,” said Dow Jones Chief Executive William Lewis in a memo to staff.
The corporate review will focus on three key areas: newsroom, advertising sales and possible efficiencies. Among the changes will be a revised print edition which is expected to launch in the next few weeks. It will include a consolidation of sections “Business & Tech” and Money & Investing.” WSJ will not reduce coverage in those topics, but it is hoping to reduce production costs.
“The new product will be a livelier, sharper and more concise newspaper that is an engaging counterpart to our digitally delivered news,” Lewis’s memo read. “It will also present a more coherent organization of our coverage in print, and will involve some consolidation of sections of the paper and the teams that produce it.”
On a positive note, the Wall Street Journal has experienced success with readers and advertisers shifting to digital from print. In fact, the Wall Street Journal has 1 million digital subscribers. As of July 1, it has 1.09 million print subscribers.
This is the second round of major changes for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal this year. In January, we reported on major organizational changes, including the creation of a new publishing unit called the Dow Jones Media Group. At that time, Lewis boasted about all of the company’s successes including digital and mobile ad growth, customer content offerings, customer retention efforts and Pulitzer Prize-winning stories. Apparently, that wasn’t enough.
Hmmm…so 10 months after Lewis’s pronouncement that things were good at the Dow Jones, now they are hurting and staff buyouts, layouts, company and product, and major cost-cutting are necessary? It sounds like January’s announcement may have been more PR spin than reality. Finn’s faux pas certainly didn’t help matters by announcing layoffs that hadn’t been made public yet.
It is no secret that even major players like the Wall Street Journal are trying to navigate the shift from print to digital, but it seems that sugarcoating the news that things were less-than-rosy in January didn’t help the company. In fact, it has wasted another 10 months trying to decide what to do. Perhaps it could have used that time more wisely.