After All That, Journal Re-Ups At Its Old Home

After seriously considering a move to midtown, Dow Jones, the parent company of The Wall Street Journal , told Off the Record this week that the company will keep its and the newspaper’s headquarters in lower Manhattan.

It is unclear where Dow Jones and The Journal will resettle downtown. Companyexecutivessay they’re keen to return to their former home at the World Financial Center-abandoned on Sept. 11-but are also mulling other locations in the area.

Paul Steiger, managing editor of The Journal , was traveling and unavailable for comment. But Dow Jones vice president Steve Goldstein confirmed the decision to stay near Wall Street. “We will remain downtown,” Mr. Goldstein said. “While we’ve looked at a lot of other locations, our goal is to stay at the World Financial Center if possible.”

Dow Jones’ decision ends a period of geographic uncertainty for the company and its flagship newspaper. Since Sept. 11, both Dow Jones employees and The Journal ‘s staff have worked out of temporary spaces in New York and New Jersey.

Recently, Dow Jones made serious inquiries about moving its and The Journal ‘s headquarters out of the downtown and up to the midtown area. One source familiar with the company’s search said that Dow Jones had priced two sites-including one near Penn Station.

Utlimately, Dow Jones decided to stick close to Wall Street. For advocates of lower Manhattan, the return of The Journal and Dow Jones is certain to be a boon, both economically and symbolically. The company intends to bring roughly 400 employees back to the area-not an insignificant number in terms of financial impact. Dow Jones and the 113-year-old Journal are also among the most recognized and influential names in the financial world.

“The presence of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones in lower Manhattan will strengthen our effort to market international headquarters to the world investment community,” said Kathryn Wylde, the president of the New York City Partnership, an advocacy group for New York businesses.

Still, it’s uncertain when Dow Jones and The Journal might return to the World Financial Center. The paper’s lease of seven floors inside the World Financial Center will expire in 2005, and currently Dow Jones is shopping for half that space for sublease.

As for the remaining space, the company has yet to set a move-in date. The Journal and Dow Jones had targeted May 1 as a date for reconstruction to begin on the damaged World Financial Center offices, but that date has been pushed back several days amid charges by both Dow Jones and its employee union that the clean-up of the site is incomplete. A test recently conducted by Dow Jones found traces of asbestos on the firm’s 11th floor. Mr. Goldstein now says the reconstruction will begin on May 6, with the company looking to move back in either in late July or early August.

That’s a significant delay from initial estimates about when The Journal would return.

On Sept. 24, 2001, executives of Brookfield Properties, the World Financial Center’s landlord, pledged to have most tenants back in two months. As of today, half the firms-but only 25 percent of the total office space in the building-have returned. Returning firms include Deloitte & Touche, the Battery Park City Authority and Revco. Dow Jones, CIBC and Lehman Brothers have yet to come back.

Quietly, sources at Brookfield expressed exasperation at firms’ unwillingness to accept the government standards for safety in the building. But Ric Clark, chief executive of Brookfield Properties, would say only that “we’ve encouraged all of our tenants to hire private companies for testing … and we’ve been aggressively testing and have had clean-up efforts in place since Sept. 13.” Mr. Clark said the company’s own tests meet or exceed city, state and federal environmental-protection standards. Brookfield is testing again on the 11th floor, in response to the results of Dow Jones’ independent testing firm, and is awaiting the new results.

Dow Jones raised the clean-up issue with Brookfield Properties as it deliberated moving to midtown. A memo sent to union members by IAPE/Communications Workers of America Local 1096, which represents Dow Jones and Journal employees, noted that Dow Jones “began sniffing around” at other properties, according to Guy Nardo, the Dow Jones vice president of general services, because the company wished to alert Brookfield that it had other options.

Mr. Goldstein said, “We are negotiating with Brookfield. This is part of that process. It’s only prudent that we’ve looked at other locations.

“Brookfield has been very accommodating,” Mr. Goldstein continued. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. They understand our position that we won’t return until it’s safe. But we owe it to our stockholders to look at other downtown locations and determine the most prudent place to be.”

(A spokesperson for Brookfield said the company doesn’t comment on going investigations.) Ron Chen, a copy editor with The Journal and president of IAPE, said that his colleagues want to make sure Dow Jones considers all its options before returning to the World Financial Center, and that this effort is genuine and not merely a negotiating tool.

“From our conversations with management, all indications are that once the lease comes due, they will review all their options,” Mr. Chen said. But he added, “Whether they’re saying this because they really mean it or because they want a better deal with Brookfield is hard to tell.”

Throughout The Journal ‘s displacement, sources from the paper have indicated a strong desire not to return to the World Financial Center-both because of the challenges to commuting and convenience the site still presents, and also because of the terrible memories that people still have of Sept. 11. Mr. Chen told Off the Record that when Dow Jones decided against returning to four of its seven floors at the World Financial Center-and in the process, permanently relocating 300 employees to New Jersey-it should have abandoned the site completely.

“We believe,” Mr. Chen said, “given out company history and our product, that we should maintain a presence in lower Manhattan. But it doesn’t have to be in the World Financial Center.”

-with Tom McGeveran

The New York Times sports section could look very different by mid-summer, as it continues to draw the attention of executive editor and crazed college-football fan Howell Raines, sources at the paper said.

“Howell wants to shake things up,” said one Times source. “There’s a sense from the higher-ups that sports is not as national as the rest of the paper. They want to change that.”

Part of this would involve, according to sources, de-emphasizing what are considered minor beats in the metropolitan region-the Devils, Islanders and Nets-in favor of more national stories. It would also include new, higher-profile assignments for tennis and Olympics writer Selena Roberts, National Football League beat writer Mike Freeman and Mike Wise, who currently covers pro basketball. Sources said one possible scenario would have Mr. Freeman and Ms. Roberts receiving their own columns, with Mr. Wise moving from the N.B.A. beat to write features.

Ms. Roberts and Mr. Wise did not return calls for comment. Mr. Freeman, who almost left the paper in late March to become a columnist for the S t. Louis Post-Dispatch -his fiancée even planned a going-away party, said a source-was unsure if he would become a columnist at the Times . “I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet,” Mr. Freeman said.

Any potential column space for Mr. Freeman and Ms. Roberts might depend on columnist Harvey Araton, who sources indicated was mulling an offer to write for the paper’s Metro section. When reached, Mr. Araton declined to go into details but did say: “There’s been some discussion of moving to another part of the paper. For the time being, nothing’s been finalized. I’m still writing the column and I enjoy doing so.”

Neither Times sports editor Neil Amdur nor Mr. Raines returned calls for comment.

-S.P.

That Steve Brill is some barrel of laughs. The founder of the late, humorless media magazine Brill’s Content tried to get a rise out of his old Primedia pals after Primedia’s New York magazine tweaked Mr. Brill by naming him to its “Straight 25: New York’s Un queerest Folks” list in its “Gay Life Now” issue.

After the Big Gay New York hit newsstands on April 22, Mr. Brill-who until October of last year ran his Content and Inside.com in a complicated joint venture with Primedia-dashed off an e-mail to Primedia chief executive Tom Rogers and Primedia vice chairman and general counsel Beverly Chell complaining that being named to the “Straight 25″ was “outrageous slander” and a violation of the non-disparagement clause he signed with the company on his way out the door.

Mr. Brill, who confirmed to Off the Record that he sent the e-mail, said he was just joking. But one Primedia source said that at least for a few moments, Mr. Rogers and Ms. Chell were worried they had a new legal tussle with the mercurial Mr. Brill.

Mr. Brill scoffed at that suggestion, and forwarded us Ms. Chell’s reply to his missive.

“Steve, we want to assure you that we had no intention of denigrating you by suggesting you are one of the straightest New Yorkers,” Ms. Chell wrote. “I can assure you no one here had any input. Not sure what I would have said if I was asked.” She added: “If you want to escape the list next year, I would ditch the bespoke tailoring and suspenders.”

When asked if she took Mr. Brill seriously, Ms. Chell said: “Does it look like I took him seriously?”

-Gabriel Snyder

Call him “Li’l Brill”: John Battelle, the founder of the formerly-white-hot-but-now-cold-dead Industry Standard , is launching a quarterly media review.

Since the Industry Standard went out of biz last year, Mr. Battelle has been teaching a course called “Making a Media Review” at the University of California at Berkeley’s journalism school. Borrowing a page from famed law professor Alan Dershowitz, Mr. Battelle put his class to work on a publication called The Big Story , which will examine how the media covers a current, major news event. The first Big Story -which explores coverage of Sept. 11-is due out in a few weeks.

“It’s a way of criticizing and understanding big corporate media,” Mr. Battelle said of his new title, which at this point will only be available around Berkeley.

Mr. Battelle hopes that The Big Story will live for a second issue, but that will depend on finding a funding source. The Big Story , Mr. Battelle made clear, is not a business enterprise. “As we’ve seen, the idea of a commercial media review is sort of a non-starter,” he said.

In addition to his journalism students, Mr. Battelle has also lined up some pros to write for the first issue, including Michael Elliott, editor at large for Time , and Bill Drummond, the former Jerusalem bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times .

Mr. Battelle said that he was still cooking up an idea for a new, real magazine. “As I shake off the blows from the Standard ,” he said, “I’m just one of those weird people who goes to the newsstand and says, ‘There’s nothing here I want to read’-so I go and make it.”

-G.S.

The New York Times has settled on a Los Angeles bureau chief. John Broder, currently the Washington editor under D.C. bureau chief Jill Abramson, will be heading west over the summer. Asked why he was going, Mr. Broder said, “Romance! Adventure! A percentage of the gross! Isn’t that why everyone goes to Hollywood?”

The L.A. bureau-chief job has been vacant since last summer, when Todd Purdum moved to D.C., where he’s now covering the State Department. Adam Nagourney, the chief New York political correspondent, was supposed to replace Mr. Purdum shortly after last year’s mayoral election, but in the wake of Sept. 11, executive editor Howell Raines and Mr. Nagourney decided that he could best serve the paper by covering New York politics as the city, state and federal government worked to rebuild lower Manhattan.

Before joining The New York Times , Mr. Broder worked for the Los Angeles Times from 1985 to 1997. But he only worked in L.A. for his first two and a half years with the paper; for the last 15 years, he’s lived in Washington. Mr. Broder said he was ready to cover a new story. “After a certain amount of time-with the exception of the impeachment and Sept. 11-the Washington story takes on a certain amount of predictability,” he said. “And after going through it three or four cycles, it was time to write about something else.” Mr. Broder also noted the old adage that politics is show business for ugly people. “I want to go where the beautiful people are,” he said.

-G.S.