Media: Quality content only for WSJE

In an age of what Nick Davies called Flat Earth News in his book of the same title, there are few publications that can claim to have avoided the curse of 'churnalism'.

This refers to the idea that newsrooms are so overworked in the face of a 24-hour news culture that it is not uncommon to see a regurgitated press release in the pages of a publication.

But Patience Wheatcroft, editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal Europe, maintains: 'You will never find a rehashed press release in the WSJE.'

The paper, bought by Rupert Murdoch two years ago along with its parent company Dow Jones, has long enjoyed a reputation for quality. As Chris Kelsey, PR account director of Robson Brown, puts it: 'If it's in the WSJE, it is going to be accurate, factual, and all the figures will be correct.'

Nancy Prendergast, MD of Tannissan Mae Communications, which deals with the WSJE on behalf of aerospace and finance clients, says while in Europe the WSJE takes a back seat to the Financial Times: 'It is the most efficient route we know to promoting clients to their US finance and business targets.'

The downside of this reputation for accuracy is the WSJE can be 'stodgy', says Kelsey.

Jason Nisse, director at Fishburn Hedges and former assistant City editor at The Times, adds: 'It has suffered from being seen as just the European edition of the US paper.'

Enter Wheatcroft, who joined the WSJE two months ago, after a break from journalism following her departure from The Sunday Telegraph in September 2007. 'I really had not intended to go back into media, but Robert Thompson, editor-in-chief of the WSJ, and Rupert Murdoch can be pretty persuasive,' she says.

As a former City editor of The Times, she has the contacts and credentials to lead such a heavyweight publication, says Nisse: 'If she succeeds in creating a publication that stands on its own two feet in Europe, it will be able to challenge the FT.'

Wheatcroft has set about modernising the paper to bring it in line with the website, which is a combination of freely available and subscriber-only content. The print publication now has more analysis and new columnists, a new front-page design and more use of colour. Wheatcroft says she sees the future of the publication resting in more in-depth analysis, with the website dealing with breaking news: 'If I can produce two or three things each reader finds of interest, then they will buy the paper again tomorrow.'

Murdoch has been at the forefront of the paid-for content debate and Wheatcroft admits: 'He feels strongly about the degree of "theft", as he might call it, that his organisations and others are generating that is not being properly valued at the moment.'

It has been widely cited that Murdoch may soon attempt a 100 per cent paid-for model. Wheatcroft says: 'I do not think we will have to wait too long to see that happening.'

QUICK FACTS
Circulation: 75,000 (source: WSJE)
Frequency: Daily
Website: europe.wsj.com
Base: Moved offices from Brussels to London this July
Contact: firstname.surname@wsj.com

A MINUTE WITH ... PATIENCE WHEATCROFT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WSJ EUROPE

- Who reads the WSJE?

Movers and shakers in business, finance and politics.

- What makes the WSJE stand out?

It is one of the few truly global publications out there and has an integrated staff of more than 400 reporters across Europe. It's quite something to have that sort of resource.

- Describe your relationship with PROs

One of the most important things they can do is ensure we have access. We want to talk and listen to the people making decisions and making things happen. PROs can be wonderful enablers but its essential we talk to the people who are actually making the decisions.

- How do the paper and the website fit together?

We have to work with the internet, not against it. Our readers are getting their news throughout the day through their desktops, BlackBerrys and mobile readers. The paper has to give people fewer stories, with added depth, comment, analysis, graphics and side bars. We can feel confident about covering fewer stories in greater depth because at the back of the book we have a digest of what's been happening so people can be up to speed in ten minutes.

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