The leadership changes announced at the Wall Street Journal this week are more than another shuffle in the executive suite. The Dow Jones board of directors voted to replace journalism’s power couple — Peter Kann and his wife, Karen Elliott House, chairman and publisher respectively, with 47-year-old Richard Zannino, a senior Dow Jones executive, and a player to be named.
Peter and Karen are both journalists, very fine, Pulitizer-prize winning journalists, who were examples of Dow Jones’s long tradition of promoting journalists from the field to the front office. Mr. Zannino, who seems to be widely liked, is a businessman pure and simple. His major professional credential is his experience with Liz Claiborne, Inc. He may be exactly what the beleaguered Dow Jones needs at this difficult time in the newspaper business, and no doubt he will carry out the cost cutting and other measures that Wall Street wants to see, but something has been lost in this transition.
Having watched both Peter and Karen in the field, I have a sneaking suspicion that both were better reporters than executives. Perhaps now they will have time to get back to what they do best. They are a class act.