Champagne corks fly at ‘The Journal’ while, three floors up, Daily staffers start job-hunting

Rupert Murdoch, Robert Thomson. ()
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As the Wall Street Journal newsroom was convened this afternoon to watch Rupert Murdoch douse the new managing editor's head with champagne, others in News Corp's Midtown headquarters were taking part in less festive gatherings.

Following this morning's news that News Corp's iPad newspaper, The Daily, is being closed down on Dec. 15 as part of the conglomerate's proposed split into separate entertainment and publishing companies, employees for the tablet publication began meeting with human resources managers in small groups to go over details about paychecks, benefits and their exit packages, which will amount to three months' additional salary and health insurance through March, according to people who were briefed on the matter.

As part of the separation agreement, Daily staffers will be released from a non-compete clause outlined in their initial contracts precluding them from working for competitors for a window of time. But they must sign off on a clause specifiying that those who find new jobs externally won't recruit co-workers until after News Corp. H.R. has tried to place them elsewhere within the company, sources said.

To assist Daily staffers in that effort, there will be an internal job fair on Dec. 19. Several of them have already landed on their feet, including editor Jesse Angelo, who has been promoted to publisher of sister title the New York Post, and veteran gossip Richard Johnson, who had left the Post to become The Daily's Hollywood bureau chief two years ago and is now headed back to the tabloid, according to an announcement this afternoon on his Facebook page.

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A Post spokesperson couldn't confirm that Johnson would return to the helm of Page Six, which he oversaw for some 25 years, but said he'd continue to be stationed in Los Angeles.

There's no word yet on various other high-profile Daily employees, such as Chris Wilson, Mike Nizza, or Claire Howorth.

As for those who can't find other jobs within the company or do not wish to, The Daily has retained head-hunting firm The Hired Guns to come in and help them with job placement.

It's too early to know how many of The Daily's roughly 100 remaining employees will be absorbed by the Post or other News Corp. properties, said a person familiar with the situation.

A News Corp. spokesperson declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing human resources matters.

Meanwhile, deputy editor Gerard Baker was formally introduced to Journal staffers as the paper's new managing editor succeeding Robert Thomson this afternoon during a packed meeting in the sixth-floor newsroom.

That's where Murdoch's champagne-pouring happened, and not much else of note did. Thomson, who has been chosen to serve as C.E.O. of News Corp. as a reconfigured standalone publishing company, was also there. All three executives addressed the assembled Journal employees.

"Robert planted the idea for the champagne pour when he said he wanted to talk before he handed over the floor to Rupert, who would say a few words before pouring champagne on Gerry's head," said one when asked about the meeting. "Presumably [Thomson was] kidding."

Other than that: "Nothing juicy happened," said another person who was in attendance.

The Journal is expected to be the centerpiece of News Corp. once it breaks off from the film and TV properties that have been hampered in recent years by their association with a stable of print titles struggling to make money through the newspaper industry's digital transition.

The entertainment assets, which include Fox News and 20th Century Fox, will soon exist as a separate, publicly traded company, the details of which were announced this morning along with news of The Daily's demise.