Murdoch begins cutting costs at 'WSJ' as battle with 'FT' looms

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Rupert Murdoch has already begun making cost cuts at the Wall Street Journal, even before he takes full control of the newspaper, which is expected following a shareholder vote today.

The purchase of the Journal, the crown jewel of financial reporting in the US, by Mr Murdoch's News Corp was bitterly contested by journalists in the summer, but unions now say they are ready to work with the media mogul and the new management team that he is bringing in from his UK newspaper business.

Up to three dozen voluntary redundancies and early retirements are expected among a staff of 750, with savings used for new investment in other areas. Long-standing staff members close to retirement are among those that have already been approached.

"We have seen a number of these buy-outs initiated already by the current management, which doesn't do anything without the direction of News Corp," said Steven Yount, head of the union which represents Journal staff.

Mr Murdoch plans to expand the political and international news in the Journal, and add to its arts coverage, in an attempt to attract new readers and battle the New York Times head-on. Overall staff numbers may well increase, executives say, as new journalists are recruited in these areas. Mr Murdoch has also promised to revamp the Journal's overseas editions to better compete with the Pearson-owned Financial Times.

The union was satisfied that the redundancies are being approached within labour laws and according to people's contracts, Mr Yount said. He also rejected any suggestion that journalists would be concerned about the appointment of Murdoch loyalist Robert Thomson who said goodbye to staff of The Times in London last night, after five years as editor as the Journal's new publisher. "We are not going to continue a running battle with Rupert Murdoch, who we work for, whether you regard him as good, bad or indifferent.," said Mr Yount.

News Corp's takeover of the Journal's parent company Dow Jones was opposed by staff who worried it would send the paper downmarket or allow Mr Murdoch to meddle in its editorial content to suit his business interests. A shareholder vote today is expected to seal the takeover.