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2010 September 12

The Domino Effect

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Deborah Needleman Deborah Needleman
Giorgio Niro
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(NEW YORK) Attention, starving freelancers! Nearly two years after her baby folded, the Journal’s new lifestyle lieutenant has ambitious plans and a budget to match. First, a Saturday section. Then, a revamped WSJ. Can she move the Needleman?

Are you excited about your headcut?
We’ve been doing headcuts for other people, but I don’t know if I’m headcut-worthy. It’s definitely an old-fashioned rite of passage around here.

Last we heard you were whiling away your summer in the garden. How’d you end up in Murdoch World?
The short version is, I was brought in to work on a prototype for a new Saturday section. After it was approved, I came back to work on it, got seduced by the place, and ended up staying, slightly by accident.

It’s not out yet, is it?
It isn’t. Hopefully, when it is, you’ll notice! It’s fashion, travel, tech, food, decoration—just an amazing array of stuff. So I came on to oversee that, then the magazine job came up at WSJ. It just seemed like a great opportunity to help build out the Journal.

What makes a good lifestyle section?
It has to be amusing and entertaining and smart and concise and a bit irreverent. I think newspapers can get a bit too wordy and preachy. People are busy, and it’s their weekend—they don’t want a long read. I’m trying to give the section an identity that’s useful and smart and fun and chic.

How do you compete with the Times? Is it about exclusives?
No, I don’t care that much about exclusives, because I don’t think readers really care. No one wants to read rehashed material, but I think quite often the desire for exclusivity is about showing off for the industry. A lot of editors assume that regular people read the 20 magazines and eight newspapers and 57 blogs that the rest of us read.

Is there a model you have in mind?
I think the British weekend papers are fun and irreverent in a way that ours aren’t, and I’d like to capture some of that energy. I love the FT Weekend and How to Spend It.

Will you be doing shoots?
Yes, absolutely. Lots and lots of shoots! The kinds of photographers and the kinds of stories are more magazine-y. It’s a magazine in newspaper’s clothing.

What’s the plan for the actual magazine, WSJ?
We’re working on it, but right now I’m focusing on the Saturday section.

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