WSJ Hires Deborah Needleman, Takes On T Magazine

On Monday, when The Wall Street Journal announced that it had hired former Domino editor Deborah Needleman to head its lifestyle glossy WSJ., media minders immediately started making comparisons between her and newly named T Magazine editor Sally Singer. Both are former Conde Nast big wigs, and now direct the style magazines of warring newspaper companies.

Needleman will have other responsibilities — in addition to the six issues of WSJ. she’ll send to bed each year, she’ll also edit a weekly Saturday style section. Singer, on the other hand, will have a fully actualized fashion magazine that’s been profitable even in lean times and publishes 15 issues a year.

But John Koblin, a media reporter for The New York Observer, says the fact that Rupert Murdoch has poached a Conde Nast-trained editor means he’s getting ready to beef up the magazine’s performance, which would make it another touchpoint in the Journal vs. Times battle royale.

The Journal traditionally hasn’t been interested in attracting the sort of talent that is cultivated at Condé Nast, but the fact that it is able to draw in a name like Ms. Needleman suggests how far it’s come-and how it is inching into The Times’ wheelhouse.

People at The Journal will swear to you that Ms. Needleman’s hiring was not in response to The Times’ hiring of Ms. Singer, but the timing is curious. After The Times stunned magazine insiders by announcing they had poached Ms. Singer away in early June, it took only nine days for WSJ. editor Tina Gaudoin to announce that she was departing (she said she was leaving for personal reasons). And now, roughly six weeks later, The Journal has hired Ms. Needleman in a move that suggests that Rupert Murdoch and Journal editor Robert Thomson were amping up the glossy’s firepower.

But we’re wondering just how Needleman is going to work in this equation. While Singer is being dropped right into a role she’s spent decades training for, Needleman is going from a shelter title to a full lifestyle magazine that’s focused on fashion.

“It’s a luxury lifestyle magazine,” said Ms. Needleman, speaking of WSJ. “And that’s exactly what appeals to me. I feel like my true subject is lifestyle. Getting the best people to write and photograph and digest that information for the reader is what I want to do. In that way, it’s not that different from what I was before.

Well, maybe that’s what she’ll mold it into. And maybe it’ll sell. Here’s hoping — we’ve got our fingers crossed for her, and we’ll love and miss the work she did at Domino either way.

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