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Ruth Altchek Elevated, Kristina O’Neill Hired at WSJ

O’Neill will report to Altchek under a reorganized masthead.

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ALTCHEK ELEVATED, O’NEILL HIRED: WSJ. magazine has a new Deborah Needleman: Ruth Altchek, the editor of The Wall Street Journal’s Saturday section, Off Duty.

On Wednesday morning, the Journal said Kristina O’Neill, the executive editor of Harper’s Bazaar, had been named the editor of its magazine.

But the announcement buried the lede.

O’Neill will report to Altchek under a reorganized masthead. Altchek now has the new title of editorial director of WSJ Weekend and will oversee both Off Duty and the magazine.

The promotion mirrors Needleman’s own. She was initially brought in to consult on Off Duty’s launch, but was later bumped up to lead the magazine as well when founding editor Tina Gaudoin resigned in 2010.

Both sections remained under her purview while she was at the Journal, but since Altchek was named Off Duty’s editor last August, Needleman stepped back to concentrate on the glossy while leaving her deputy to cultivate the section.

The Journal had been looking for a successor since Needleman revealed in late September, after weeks of negotiation, she was jumping to T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

Aside from O’Neill, the Journal had also interviewed at least two other editors from Hearst Corp. — Elle fashion news director Anne Slowey and style director Kate Lanphear — and from Condé Nast, Glamour executive fashion director Anne Christensen, sources said. Lanphear, reached Tuesday, declined comment. Slowey and Christensen could not be reached. Some speculated Financial Times fashion editor Vanessa Friedman and GQ deputy editor Michael Hainey were also candidates.

O’Neill, who’d been at Bazaar since 2000, will oversee the magazine’s day-to-day editorial content, according to the Journal.

But by appointing Altchek as the eyes of the Journal’s combined lifestyle brands, managing editor Robert Thomson is ensuring continuity.

Altchek had been one of Needleman’s first hires upon joining the Journal in 2010 — the two had worked at Domino, where she’d been Needleman’s features editor. After Domino was shuttered, Altchek was a senior editor at Martha Stewart Living.

Not one to be outdone, the Times had its own announcement a swift 10 minutes after O’Neill’s selection was revealed — T is scaling back to 13 issues a year and will be redesigned to be more general interest. As WWD reported, the shift in direction and frequency were among Needleman’s stipulations for joining the Times. Needleman had also asked for a dedicated publisher, and the Times recently promoted Edward Celata to the newly created position of T advertising director.

After Needleman’s first issue comes out Feb. 17, each new T will cover “a broader range of culture and style topics,” the Times said. The magazine will also have a larger format and appear in a higher-quality paper stock.

In some respects, the beefed-up T will look a lot like the old Sunday weekly magazine, which trimmed its size in 2009 and also covered lifestyle. A natural question is: Will the weekly magazine find it even tougher to get advertising? It’s had a total of nearly 60 pages through Oct. 15, down about 4 percent from last year, according to Media Industry Newsletter.

A spokeswoman said the Sunday magazine is broader and newsier and not a general-interest style magazine. “We think there are different advertisers interested in each brand,” the spokeswoman said.

Needleman said she was reimagining T so that it is “best suited to showcasing beautiful photography and culturally rich subject matter.”

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