At first glance, the Wall Street Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones & Co., appear to be models of serenity. The newsroom, as newsrooms go, is surprisingly tranquil, despite a recent round of layoffs. Paul E. Steiger, the managing editor (the paper’s top editorial position), listens more than he exhorts, and jokes about how boring he is. The chairman and C.E.O. of Dow Jones, Peter R. Kann, glances at his watch when he makes presentations, as if he couldn’t wait to flee.
The apparent calm is misleading. Kann will be sixty-one this year, four years short of mandatory retirement, and no one knows if his successor will be a journalist, like him and like his predecessors for the past half century. Steiger, too, is sixty-one, and the competition for his job has begun. The financial health of the company is less than robust; in 2002, Dow Jones lost eight million dollars, and reduced costs by nearly a hundred and seventy-nine million dollars. More than seventeen hundred full-time employees have been let go since December, 2000—about a quarter of the workforce—and some Journal employees say that the paper lacks the energy and investigative appetite it once had. Many reporters and editors, even though they like Kann personally, think that the company might be in better financial condition if its C.E.O. were a tough businessman.
People who work at the Journal speak as if they’d been through a war, and in a way they have. Their offices, at One World Financial Center, are across t...