The next morning, while visiting the Los Angeles bureau, he was asked whether The Journal was going to be able to retain its identity against the strong will of the newspaper’s new master.
“As long as I’m here it will,” he told the reporters, “but I don’t know much longer I’ll be around for.”
Death of a Salesman
In many ways, his West Coast swing was an appropriate swan song for Mr. Brauchli. He was there to help pitch WSJ. to advertisers. The project had begun its life as Pursuits, and under Mr. Brauchli’s guidance had made it to the prototype level right around the time Mr. Murdoch was establishing his own office in the 11th-floor offices of The Journal (though he was still two months away from completing his deal to buy the paper).
Mr. Brauchli had selected an editor, Journal feature writer Robert Frank, to run their version of The Times’ wildly successful T magazines, and he had given it its name.
But soon after Mr. Murdoch’s takeover was complete, Mr. Frank was kicked off the magazine and it was put directly in the control of Mr. Murdoch’s right-hand man at The Journal, the noted Murdoch loyalist Robert Thomson.
Mr. Thomson installed an old News Corp. ally, Tina Gaudoin, to take over the project. The magazine was ripped apart, and renamed.
And last week, it was Mr. Brauchli burning the shoe leather in California selling advertisers on the magazine that must have seemed to him an absolute rejection of his own editorial vision.
This kind of thing, he became more willing to reveal as the months wore on, was not a shock to his system.
He told the breakfast crowd in the Los Angeles bureau last week about a Rupert Murdoch initiative called “Project Eagle.”
Last year, his new owners told him they wanted to send out a special edition of The Journal in London, distinct from the newspaper’s existing European editions.
Mr. Brauchli would not himself be able to make this edition, but he’d be given plenty of advance notice about its launch. A week later, he said, he was told the launch was happening. He demanded to see a mock-up, which he described as “cartoonish,” and he threw his body over it. Publication was halted for a few months.
Mr. Brauchli had already dropped his facade of being on the winning side; now, he was telling war stories.
Over the past few months, he had made a habit of telling outside reporters that if Mr. Murdoch wanted to see more general news, it was nothing that the editors didn’t also want.
But while he was in San Francisco, that message changed. For the first time, he was saying things like “Rupert Murdoch believes that we should do this.”
No “the editors think …” No patina of concerted effort or opinion at the top.
In answer to that question about the Pulitzers, Mr. Brauchli told the bureau that while Rupert Murdoch does not believe in Pulitzer Prizes, all the Journal’s editors, including himself, do.
By the end of the weekend, Mr. Brauchli had retained the services of Robert Barnett, the power-broker Washington lawyer who has represented Karl Rove, Tony Blair and Ted Kennedy on book deals, to represent him in a severance deal with News Corp. and The Journal.
Whether Mr. Brauchli was forced out, or whether he actually resigned—which virtually no Journal staffers believe—does not matter. The press release sent out by Dow Jones 16 hours after that Time story, and Mr. Brauchli’s own follow-up note to his staff, tell the story clearly enough.
“Marcus has been a terrific leader throughout the transition process and I have great respect for him,” Mr. Murdoch said in a statement. And on the consulting role Mr. Brauchli will continue to hold at the company—one that nobody expects to be in any way substantial—he had this to say: “I am pleased he has accepted this new role in News Corporation and believe his experience will be a great asset, especially in Asia—a region where we see significant growth potential and where he has particular expertise.”
In other words: You’ve been useful so far; now, get out of town.
“I have come to believe the new owners should have a managing editor of their choosing,” was Mr. Brauchli’s explanation.
“[Mr. Murdoch] has done this all over the world—he did it in England, Harry Evans wrote a book about it, and he even tried it at The Village Voice,” said Ken Auletta, the New Yorker writer, who witnessed Mr. Murdoch’s methods while working at New York magazine after Mr. Murdoch took it over in 1977.
“It’s in the nature of Murdoch to be involved.”