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Emma Tucker to replace Matt Murray as editor of the Wall Street Journal

The appointment of the editor of London’s Sunday Times, who will be the Journal’s first woman as top editor, marks a reassertion of control by controlling shareholder Rupert Murdoch over the newspaper

The headquarters of News Corp., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, in New York. (Richard Drew/AP)

The Wall Street Journal on Monday named Emma Tucker — a British journalist from the Sunday Times of London who is close with controlling shareholder Rupert Murdoch’s inner circle — as its new editor in chief, replacing Matt Murray, a Journal veteran who has led the paper for the past 4½ years.

Tucker, 56, will be the first woman to serve as top editor of the Journal in its 133-year history. News Corp, which oversees Murdoch’s publishing empire, said Murray will take on a new executive role at the company, reporting to chief executive Robert Thomson after assisting Tucker through a one-month transition beginning Feb. 1.

The move signals a reassertion of control by Murdoch, who bought the Journal in 2007 and quickly took editorial command of the publication. Since then, Murray has been the only top editor to rise through the ranks of the Journal; the others have been editors brought over from other Murdoch titles.

During Murray’s tenure, the Journal won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2019 and produced significant series such as the “Facebook Files” and an investigation into the financial conflicts of interest among federal judges. Digital-only subscriptions to the Journal doubled, growing from approximately 1.6 million as of June 2018 to nearly 3.2 million as of the quarter ending in September.

His appointment to the top job in 2018, after nearly a quarter-century at the paper, quelled significant staff dissatisfaction with his predecessor Gerard Baker, a British journalist who among his various roles had previously written conservative commentary — describing himself as a “right-wing curmudgeon” — and who was perceived by many staffers as overly friendly toward President Donald Trump.

But Murray clashed occasionally with the paper’s publisher, Almar Latour, on the Journal’s long-term editorial strategy and efforts to increase subscribers, the New York Times reported last year.

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On Monday, Thomson praised Murray as a “superb journalist and leader who has overseen a peerless editorial team that fashioned success for the Journal during an era of extreme vulnerability for media companies and journalism.”

Since January 2020, Tucker has served as editor of the Sunday Times, which she joined in 2007. She had previously worked alongside Thomson at the Financial Times, where he was an editor. Her candidacy for the Journal post also got a boost from Rebekah Brooks, who oversees News Corp.’s British arm, which includes the Times of London and the Sunday Times, as well as the Sun tabloid.

Under Tucker’s editorship, the Sunday Times was named Sunday Newspaper of the Year at the U.K. Press Awards and saw a more than 40 percent increase in digital subscriptions, to 450,000 by September 2022, up from 320,000 at the end of 2019.

Thomson praised Tucker as someone whose “global vision and experience will be particularly important at a time of immense international opportunity” for the Journal.

News Corp. said that the five-member Dow Jones Special Committee, created in 2007 to monitor editorial standards and ethics issues at the Wall Street Journal, had “unanimously approved” the appointments.

The move comes as the two companies under the Murdoch family’s control — News Corp. and Fox Corp. — are exploring a recombination. The entities split in 2012 after the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch’s British tabloids.

Murdoch sold the vast majority of his empire to Disney in 2019 and named his oldest son, Lachlan, as CEO of Fox Corp.