Tracy Corrigan, Editor-in-chief, Europe, The Wall Street Journal

Tracy Corrigan became editor-in-chief, Europe, of The Wall Street Journal (WSJE) in January 2011 after a three year spell at the Telegraph and a long career at the FT. The move was a return to Dow Jones, where she had started as a newswires reporter 20 years earlier, prior to joining the FT.

Her brief time at the WSJE has already proved exciting and unpredictable. Since January her team has reported on the Arab uprisings, Japan's tsunami and nuclear crisis, and of course Europe's escalating sovereign debt problems.

With a network of more than 200 reporters to call on in London, 440 in Europe and more than 2,000 around the world, the Journal is well-placed to explain to readers not just the daily developments of stories like these, but also the impact on economies and companies. So, for example, the Journal not only reported on developments in Japan's unfolding nuclear crisis, including the human dramas, also tracked the political reaction (the surge of anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany); the economic implications (could Europe hit green targets without nuclear - and still keep its businesses running?) - and the impact on companies (counter-intuitively, some large German energy companies enjoyed a short term boost due to higher margins).

The Wall Street Journal is the number one newspaper in the U.S. with a circulation of 2.1 million (ABC March 2011) and more than one million tablet downloads to date. The newspaper also has editions in Europe and Asia. The European operation blends the resources of Dow Jones Newswires and Financial News with WSJ reporters. Newswires reporters help provide early copy for the WSJE web site, as well as contributing to the print edition. Journalists create an enormous pool of copy, which can be funnelled into all the different distribution channels - print, website, apps. There is regular contact between editorial managers from across the organisation in order to share stories and provide the best coverage of each issue.

Such co-ordination would not have been imaginable 20 years ago when wire, trade and newspaper journalists worked quite separately. Tracy attributed the change in part to the demands of the web, which is fed by a constant stream of news from all reporters. She outlined how it is changing the way stories break. For example, a "Brussels Beat" column in that day's WSJE had first been published online as a blog, which was shared virally and picked up by other news outlets. This sort of "reverse publishing" is increasingly common, she suggested. Stories on the web reach more readers, although Tracy acknowledged that senior executives still want to read about their companies in the print edition. Whilst stories live longer and reach more readers online, the newspaper still carries a stamp of authority.

A day at the WSJE

  • 06:00 - Website and Newswires reporters start work
  • 09:30 - Newswires news meeting. Tracy's team attends to pick up on key stories and market trends and to commission blogs and other material
  • 11:30 - WSJE news meeting - first cut of content for the next day's newspaper. A representative from New York joins the call.
  • 16:30 - Second WSJE news meeting - refining of content. Front page stories decided and call-out boxes agreed. Plans for photos and graphics reviewed
  • 20:30 - Final Copy deadline
  • 21:30 - First edition goes to print
  • 23:30 - Second edition goes to print

Questions & Answers

How have you changed the emphasis of the newspaper in your first four months?
There have been no sharp turns, but Tracy has tried to reinforce that the WSJE is about business, finance and economics. Whilst it will cover geopolitics, it will not follow the daily minutiae of Westminster politics like many domestic newspapers.

Your predecessor was trying to make the WSJE more UK-centric. What's your thinking?
Tracy said that a global (or European) newspaper cannot cover every company story. She feels that the WSJE can best serve its readers by focusing on the major globalised industries - financial services, automobiles, telecoms and technology - where stories from any country will be of interest and affect readers wherever they are based. But the City of London and its financial sector remains one of our main points of focus.

How do you decide who will write the Agenda section on page two?
There is a set roster of writers, although sometimes the rota will change because specialist knowledge is needed on a given day. The Agenda column only runs in the European edition. The Monday interview is another example of Europe-only material, although it is sometimes picked up by the US edition.

Are there times when the US edition gets to publish a story first?
Tracy said that the European deadlines inevitably mean that the newspaper will miss some late-breaking US stories.

Some clients have suggested that the accuracy of newspapers is in decline. Do you agree?
Tracy said accuracy is a key strength of the Journal which retains a large bank of sub-editors and high ethical standards. It employs two full time people to manage ethical issues alongside the newspaper's lawyers.

What is the WSJE's readership breakdown?
The European circulation is 75,000 with the UK, Germany, France and Switzerland its largest markets.

To get a WSJE journalist interested, do you need a US angle? 
No, the WSJE's main focus is on big international stories. Stories need to have resonance with an internationally-minded reader who is likely a regular business traveller and used to working in different markets.

When you are working on a European story for a US client, to which journalist team should it be pitched?
Tracy said it often works better to pitch to the US team, because that person will be the beat reporter for the company in question, but it depends on the story.

What is the interest in Europe's sovereign debt crisis in the US?
It's one of the big stories and has been for some time. Tracy indicated that there has been a lot of interest as the issue also highlights Europe's declining economic strength relative to emerging economies. The WSJ was recently shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the issue.

Do you ever publish thematic stories, for example the growth of the SME market in the UK or Europe?
The newspaper would cover SMEs as part of trend stories. It prefers stories about trends to case studies.

Steve Smith is Head of Internal and External Communications for Cable & Wireless Communications Plc, a British telecommunications operator with a presence in 38 countries.

 

Click on the pictures to enlarge

      

The CIPR Corporate and Financial Group are grateful to Newscast
for providing the photography.    Newscast

 

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