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<i>Wall Street Journal</i> Undergoes 'Facelift' - 2002-04-14

The Wall Street Journal, the prestigious newspaper dedicated to covering world business and finance, has undergone a facelift of sorts, adding color and graphics. Its publisher hopes shedding what many considered a forbidding format will make the paper more appealing. Attracting a younger, more diverse readership is not among the Journal's priorities.

The predominantly black and white format of the Wall Street Journal is no more. The paper is now making more use of color. It is also adding graphics.

The highlight of the changes at the Wall Street Journal is a new section that will appear three times a week. It is called "Personal Journal," an effort to extend the traditional realm of business to what the newspaper calls the "business of life." Want advice on home mortgages or consumer products, maybe a little travel? Concerned about health or family matters? Turn to the "Personal Journal," where the newspaper's editors promise you will learn about all sorts of things that preoccupy you beyond the workday.

The Wall Street Journal is using high-tech promotion for its new look, with computer-generated commercials on radio and television.

These are the first major changes for the Wall Street Journal in decades. And for the first time in 60 years, the front page is different, with subtle shading to highlight a column or two.

However, publisher Peter Kann says despite a splash of color here and there, some things remain black and white, including the newspaper's editorial policy. "Our standards of accuracy and fairness and independence - unchanged," he says. "The quality of our writing, the quality of our editing - unchanged. And for that matter, also our editorial philosophy, 'free people, free markets.' That remains happily a very black-and-white philosophy."

The Journal's editorial philosophy, considered very conservative, is a reflection of its main constituency, the business and financial community. And it appears that is where the Wall Street Journal plans to stay.

The conceptual changes were four years in the making, at a cost of more than $225 million. But before they went to print, the Journal sought the approval, or as Mr. Kann puts it, the permission of its traditional readers. "Basically, people like us, middle-aged or older, males who have been subscribing to the paper for 25 years or more," he says. "We figured that was the toughest constituency to convince about any kind of change."

With revenues from ads slumping lately, most media outlets are looking for younger audiences, the prime target of advertisers. But not the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Kann says the Journal has different imperatives. "For a publication like ours, which is aimed at people who have achieved a certain degree of success in life, and people who are substantive and serious, and people who have high disposable incomes, having people in their 40's and 50's is a good thing," he says. "Our advertisers aren't looking for 20-year-olds."

In the first issue of the Wall Street Journal almost 113 years ago, consisting of only four pages, its founders wrote: "We appreciate the confidence reposed (put) in our work. We mean to make it better."

According to publisher Peter Kann, today's Journal is better, and the changes have done no damage to the principles that have guided the paper from the beginning. The old spirit lives on.