Reuters Adds Some Star Power, Moves Away From The Old "Wire Mentality"

reutersChrystia Freeland.

Reuters was never the type of media outlet that well-known journalists with prestigious newspaper and magazine credentials were clamoring to work for. But that seems to be changing.The 159-year-old news service — which merged with the information company Thomson Corporation in 2007 to create Thomson Reuters — is going after top editorial talent as a way to change up its DNA and build a bigger audience. And top editorial talent is taking the bait.

In the past month alone, Reuters has added four marquee names to its growing roster, and sources within the company say more will be announced in the coming weeks.

Most recently, the news service has nabbed:

  • Veteran Newsweek staff writer Mark Hosenball¬†
  • Fellow investigative reporter Scot Paltrow, who used to work for The Wall Street Journal and Conde Nast Portfolio
  • James Ledbetter, formerly the editor-in-chief of Slate’s Big Money vertical until it folded in July, now Reuters’ web editor
  • Ken Li, a former Reuters correspondent who left his two-year post as The Financial Times’ New York-based media reporter in August to return to Reuters as U.S. media, tech and telecoms editor

They follow other well-branded bylines Reuters has scored in the past year-and-a-half, including Felix Salmon (late of Portfolio), Jim Impoco (late of Portfolio and The New York Times) and Chrystia Freeland, a frequent TV news pundit whose poaching from The Financial Times back in March was perhaps Reuters’ biggest coup yet.

All in all, the recruitment spree is adding a new element to Reuters: recognisable names and faces.

“We are very much used to promoting from within and being somewhat anonymous,” said Betty Wong, Reuters’ global managing editor. “We really want to transform our news organisation and move away from the old mentality of thinking of it as a wire service.”

It reflects a changing culture at Reuters — which until now has not been focused on luring established talent into its fold — as it expands both its newsgathering and information operations. (The company recently launched a new financial web video service, Reuters Insider, and a terminal-like financial information platform, Reuters Eikon; the reporting staff is up to around 3,000 from 2,400 at the time of the 2007 Thomson merger, according to Wong.)

“It’s probably hardest for the senior managers,” said one knowledgeable insider. “They’ve never had to handle stars before. Now they’ve got stars.”

And they want to keep those stars around.

“There used to be an understanding that you’re supposed to leave in five years,” the source explained. “That’s endemic to the wires. But now there’s actually a concerted effort at retention. It’s a big change.”

For instance, when both The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times came knocking on investigative reporter Matthew Goldstein’s door with job offers recently, management convinced Goldstein, a former Businessweek staff writer who joined Reuters in June 2009 as part of its opinion and commentary startup, not to jump ship. (The same could not be said for Dan Primack, the creator and writer of Reuters’ successful private equity newsletter, peHUB, who left for Fortune last month.) Presumably, they offered Goldstein more money, of which they must have a lot to throw around (even though the company’s first quarter profits fell 8%) considering people like Freeland and Hosenball don’t come cheap.¬†

The talent push extends beyond the general audience and into Thomson Reuters’ professional division, which publishes specialty editorial products in the legal, tax/accounting, healthcare and science fields.

Last December, Thomson Reuters hired former Businessweek editor-in-chief Steve Adler as the professional division’s editorial director. He’s been hiring up a storm, including Amy Stevens (yet another Portfolio refugee), former Businessweek reporter Brian Grow and, most notably, Eric Effron, formerly managing editor of The Week. Stevens was hired in May; Grow and Effron in August.

So what does the competition have to say about Reuters’ increasingly star-studded newsroom?

We asked Bloomberg News for a comment. A Bloomberg spokesman declined to offer one.

But it’s worth noting that Bloomberg is in the process of adding dozens of staffers to its D.C. bureau, where it is developing a new editorial product called Bloomberg Government that will cover the intersection of government and business starting in January. No surprise then that Hosenball and Paltrow were described in a memo as “key hires [to] support Reuters efforts to expand its coverage of the intersection of business, Wall Street and Washington.

Asked if Hosenball and Paltrow were hired specifically to do battle with Bloomberg in D.C., a Reuters spokesperson said: “No. In an effort to meet the needs of our customers, Reuters has and will continue to look broadly at how policy from Washington affects business and is shaped by business.”

Wong, too, was shy about discussing the Bloomberg rivalry.

“Obviously, we are very interested in what the competition is doing,” she said.

“In the end,” Wong added, “we want the best people, whether internal or external. We’re encouraging people to build their own brands. We want to be seen as thought leaders.”

Chrystia Freeland

Hired: March 2010

From: The Financial Times

Title: Global Editor-at-large

Felix Salmon

Hired: March 2009

From: Conde Nast Portfolio

Title: Blogger

Jim Impoco

Hired: October 2009

Formerly of: Conde Nast Portfolio; The New York Times

Title: Enterprise editor

Ken Li

Hired: August 2010

From: The Financial Times (formerly of Reuters)

Title: Editor-in-charge, Media

James Ledbetter

Hired: September 2010

From: Slate (formerly of The Big Money)

Title: Website Editor

Mark Hosenball

Hired: September 2010

From: Newsweek

Title: Money and Politics Reporter

Steven Adler

Hired: December 2009

Formerly of: Businessweek

Title: Senior Vice President and Editorial Director, Thomson Reuters Professional Division

Eric Effron

Hired: August 2010

From: The Week

Title: Law Editor, Thomson Reuters Professional NewsCenter

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.