At Journal, the Words Not Spoken

David Carr – The Wall Street Journal

Copyright The New York Times
April 28, 2008
On Wednesday night, employees of The Wall Street Journal gathered in the Grill Room at the World Financial Center to bid farewell to Stuart Karle, the former general counsel of The Journal, a tenacious defender of journalism who is regarded as a reporter’s lawyer.
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The event was held by Marcus W. Brauchli, the paper’s managing editor, who will be getting his own send-off soon enough after it was revealed last Tuesday that he would be stepping down just four months after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought the paper’s corporate parent, Dow Jones & Company, and serving as a consultant with unspecified responsibilities instead.
Mr. Brauchli, who had the look of the recently run over, stuck to prepared remarks, wanly observing that he chose this time to resign because he didn’t want to be outshone by Mr. Karle, his friend and former classmate at Columbia. Mr. Karle then cracked wise that he was glad Mr. Brauchli’s corporate credit card hadn’t been canceled yet. Funny stuff.
Mr. Karle then urged the journalists in attendance — along with an interloper from another newspaper who hung in the back — to continue the newspaper’s history of vigorous and unfettered pursuit of the truth. But there were elephants, big ugly ones, all over the room, chief among them that neither Mr. Brauchli nor Mr. Karle would now be there to defend that work.
Both men, who had spent their lives helping others speak truth to power, were unwilling to do the same after getting kicked to the curb. Each is under a nondisparagement clause as part of his negotiated agreement, so Journal reporters and editors watched the odd specter of a First Amendment lawyer and a lifelong journalist talking about everything except what was on everyone’s mind.
Mr. Karle acknowledged as much and said from the dais, “You could imagine what I am thinking right now.” Full stop. “Keep going, keep going. …” he said, as laughter rolled around the room.
Not everyone was smiling.
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