MediaFile

Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer makes fun of News Corp hacking scandal

On the same day that James Murdoch was fighting for his career at a parliamentary hearing on Thursday in London, Sony’s CEO Sir Howard Stringer was making fun of the whole situation an ocean away.

At a fancy breakfast hosted by News Corp’s Wall Street Journal in New York (where Sirius XM’s CEO Mel Karmazin was in the house), Stringer was the guest of honor.  WSJ editor Robert Thomson kicked off the Q&A session introducing Stringer, who later took the opportunity to show off one of Sony’s new products, a pair of binoculars that can be used to record video or pictures in 3D. That’s when Stringer seized the moment to turn the breakfast into an impromptu roast about News Corp’s woes.  Wielding the binoculars, he said:

“These are 3D binoculars. I venture it got good reviews. The Wall Street Journal will equip all their reporters with this. And if you think hacking the Royal Family is fun with phones, this is the ideal device. If you stay at the Hotel InterContinental Hyde Park, you can actually gaze into Buckingham Palace with these. I am telling this to (Thomson), wherever you are. Did you leave already? This is for you. This is for you. Video recording or stills.”

When I caught Stringer on the sidelines after the event, he admitted his stand-up routine “was a bit dangerous.”

The Wall Street Journal — now for ‘professionals’

The Wall Street Journal, ever on the hunt for new ways to please its readers and new ways to make money (and what, we ask, is wrong with that?), will launch a new, pricier version this November. Called “The Wall Street Journal Professional Edition,” it is designed for business readers who want more than what the daily newspaper and website provide on their own.

Essentially, it is the Journal’s daily offering, with reports from Dow Jones Newswires and a reservoir of news and information from Factiva, the news archive that Dow Jones owns — and a bunch more stuff:

    Information from more than 17,000 global sources, some of which are not available to the public. A one-year archive of Factiva’s global business sources and a two-year archive of wsj.com content. More than 30 industry pages, managed by Dow Jones editors Six industry sections managed by Journal editors who select news and information for readers on pharmaceuticals, healthcare, energy, media and marketing, telecommunications and technology. Personalized homepages and news alerts for when things break.

Dow Jones plans to sell the edition to businesses, which would make it available to employees through “site licenses” (ie, your business buys a license that makes the professional edition available to X number of people for a price to be determined). In January, it will be available to people for $49 a month, or just under $600 a year, said Clare Hart, head of Dow Jones’s Enterprise Media Group, which oversees Dow Jones Newswires, Factiva and Dow Jones Indexes.

WSJ vs USA Today: Who has the biggest paper?

USA Today and The Wall Street Journal aren’t waiting for Oct. 26, the day North American newspapers report their latest circulation numbers, to begin tussling over which one has the biggest paper.

Editor & Publisher made the first move on Friday when Jennifer Saba reported that USA Today was set to report that circulation fell “17% to 1.88 million for the six months ending September 2009, a drop of about 390,000 copies. The decline could also threaten USA Today’s position as the No. 1 newspaper in the country by circulation.” The news came in a memo from USA Today Publisher, David Hunke, to his workers.

Spicy stuff, considering that when we write about its owner, Gannett, we say it is the largest U.S. newspaper publisher that publishes USA Today, the largest newspaper by circulation.

Dow Jones cuts back on benefits

The Wall Street Journal has been making plenty of hay about its rising circulation and the growing number of people online who are using the site, but parent company News Corp is cutting costs as the whole media business suffers from the recession. To that end, here is Dow Jones Chief Executive Les Hinton’s Monday memo on some benefits cutbacks that the company is instituting.

Dear colleagues:

Many companies are resetting their benefits in reaction to the economic challenges of the moment. Dow Jones has felt these same challenges and our business is far from immune to them. Unlike other media companies we have been able to avoid making changes driven by short-term necessity.

What we have done over the past year-and-a-half is to undertake a deep review of our entire benefits program. That review is complete, and today we are announcing a major change in our retirement programs. We are modernizing our approach to retirement savings and aligning our program with the market, News Corp. and our view of the future for Dow Jones.

Chernin parachutes, Murdoch keeps flying

News Corp President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin’s perks after he leaves News Corp at the end of June are basic compared with some legendary golden parachutes, though they’re still worth more money than I make in a year. Or 10 years for that matter.

In addition to his Fox studios production deal, Chernin’s creature comforts include 50 hours on News Corp’s jet ($1.65 million value), corporate car ($210,000 value) and possibly personal secretary services ($1.05 million value). See the proxy statement for more details.

That might not send the image of a cost-cutting corporate culture at a time when News Corp’s stock is down 70 percent and the bottom looks further away as its most can-do executive quits. Then again, maybe Chernin’s doing the right thing, all things considered. Check out this little-noticed excerpt from Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s memo to employees:

from Summit Notebook:

WSJ reporters get, dig change

We and the rest of the media world that covered News Corp and Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of Dow Jones & Co had no shortage of reporters at The Wall Street Journal telling us how bad life was going to get. Among the complaints was the paper's increasing focus on politics and non-business news. Wasn't this "diluting the brand" as they say in mediaspeak?

Not so, according to Robert Thomson, the former Times of London editor who now edits the Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. Business news now is concentrated in the B section of the paper (B for Business, yes, it works.), and Journal reporters are not only with the program, they're showing a willingness to try things differently.

"It's been fascinating. There was a presumption that people would be unwilling to change," Thomson told us at the Reuters Media Summit. "There has been an innate enthusiasm to develop the paper, particularly to develop the relationship between the paper, WSJ.com, Dow Jones Newswires and Marketwatch."

Wall Street Journal refreshes, reloads

wsj-homie.jpgThe WSJ.com’s new look will go live on Tuesday morning, and it won’t look much like the online Journal you’ve come to know and love. (Or hate, if you’re among its competitors.)

The standard blue-and-white look of the old homepage — as seen in the bottom picture — will be gone. Instead, there will be a whiter-looking page with “champagne” offsets for the “What’s News” section and the top. (A “clean, well-lit environment” was the operating principle, according to WSJ Online Executive Editor Alan Murray).

Other changes include a navigation bar across the top of the page instead of down the left side. Community pages invite more interactivity from readers of the site, though people are required to use their real names to post.

Deck shuffling at The Wall Street Journal

wall-street-journal.jpgThe rap on The Wall Street Journal, especially among those who get edited for a living there, is that the editing process could use a little streamlining. It looks like that’s about to happen, judging by Thursday’s memo from top editor Robert Thomson. This is part of a series of personnel changes taking place at the Journal since News Corp bought Dow Jones last year, including the resignations of top editor Marcus Brauchli and top U.S. editor Bill Grueskin:

I am pleased to announce significant changes to the editorial leadership of The Wall Street Journal, changes which will expedite decision-making and give increased authority and responsibility to reporters and bureau chiefs. These changes will take place in tandem with the creation of a central news desk that will allow significantly enhanced co-operation between print, web and Newswires journalists, in New York and around the world. At the heart of our new structure will be a National, International and Enterprise Team, a triumvirate which will report directly to me and to whom the bureau chiefs will report.

Here are the moves among the most senior editors, effective next month:

- Matt Murray, general news editor, becomes national editor.

- Nikhil Deogun, Money & Investing section editor, becomes international editor.

Keeping the ‘Wall Street’ in WSJ

dow-jones.jpgSome Wall Street Journal staff have been grousing lately over the paper’s increasing devotion to political and general news because they worry that it will move business news off the front page — something that seems inimical to a paper with the name “Wall Street” in it.

Not to worry, says Dow Jones & Co Chief Executive Les Hinton, business news is still what the Journal is all about. Here’s what Hinton said in an interview in the March 27 edition of The Australian (also owned by Murdoch’s News Corp):

“Whatever happens to the design, the key thing is we will put more national news in it and more political news in it,” he said.