And thus Murdoch’s clubhouse relocated. He installed the Journal on the third floor of News Corp.’s headquarters and soon began roaming the Journal’s newsroom, huddling with its editor and helping to direct its coverage. And, if one overlooked Murdoch’s overpayment, the Journal actually made some financial sense. Insiders claim that the paper and its website make a profit, and its circulation is now the largest of any American paper.
As a further indignity, Murdoch agreed in March that the Post had to at least genuflect to the notion that it was a business. Amid the tumult of the aughts, with newspapers and magazines relentlessly pruning their newsroom, Allan hadn’t ever had to lay off people. “We have the only newsroom that’s grown in the past decade,” one executive told me. But in May, Allan announced plans to reduce the editorial staff by 10 percent. The cuts were largely symbolic—the Post saved perhaps a few million dollars a year. But the meaning was plain—at long last, the Post had to bow to reality, gesture though it was. “Everybody does it in the business, and we did it,” said the executive.
Allan didn’t relish the role of Post hatchet man and occasionally mused out loud about retiring and returning to Australia. His once-happy newsroom seemed confused and sad. Its marquee journalists, unsure of the paper’s future and finally impatient with the mood swings that had come with Allan’s swagger, headed for the exits. Some of the mainstays, those who helped define the Post, are gone. Controversial cartoonist Sean Delonas took a buyout in June. Dan Mangan and Josh Margolin, two of the paper’s most productive journalists, left for other media jobs. Andrea Peyser announced in her column that she was taking a leave of absence. She had personal reasons, but the symbolism was striking.
“The newsroom was a ghost town,” says another reporter who departed recently.
In the spring, Allan, 60, sent an e-mail to the staff in effect announcing his defeat. “We will begin our transition to a truly digital-first newsroom … This organization is going to change fundamentally … I will be giving my full cooperation and attention. I ask you to please do the same.” To those who knew Allan, it read like something a hostage might recite.
In a sense, the person who took Allan hostage is Jesse Angelo. Angelo, 39, is everything Allan is not. He’s a son of privilege—his father is a hedge-fund tycoon; his godfather is Michael Eisner, the former CEO of Disney. And where Allan, a college dropout, had a mordant, fight-till-the-last-man sense of outrage about the world, Angelo is a pragmatist—discreet, focused, and relentlessly optimistic. You listen to him and you think maybe it’s possible to give the New York Post new life.
Angelo’s arrival marked a new chapter for Allan’s Post, which had long embraced its image of troublemaking outsider. Angelo is an insider, not only to the manner born but also, from his earliest days, almost a member of the Murdoch family. He attended the Upper West Side private school Trinity with James Murdoch, after which the two roomed together at Harvard.* Over the years, he made an impression on the patriarch. “Rupert just likes him,” says a News Corp. veteran.
Allan is said to have resented the fact that because Angelo was a Rupert favorite, he had to cater to him too. But Allan also recognized his talent, and in 2001 appointed him city editor—at age 27, he was the youngest one in the history of the paper. Now he now runs it.
I meet the youthful new face of the New York Post in a conference room on the third floor of News Corp. headquarters. There is something pristine about Angelo’s appearance, as if a couple of decades in the news business haven’t left a mark. Once chubby, he’s assiduously remade himself. He now looks fit, and stylish in a downplayed way. He wears casual tan pants and a blue button-down shirt. He’s cordial but not exactly friendly, and delights in batting back or dismissing my questions—like a disciplined diplomat sticking to talking points.
“You have a healthy distrust for the media,” I finally say.
“No, I distrust you,” he responds, half-joking.
“Why did you decide to talk to me?” I ask.
“Because of your bullshit premise,” he responds pointedly. He’s referring to my assertion that the Post’s future is limited. “Many people have wanted to write our obituary in the past, and it is wishful thinking. We’re not going anywhere,” he says. “We have one of the best brands in the business.”
Angelo’s bet is that he can rescue the Post by embracing the Internet, transferring its voice and wit and scoops and delicious inside-baseball tone to the place where the eyeballs now reside. “To unleash the full power of the Post on the web is going to be phenomenal,” he tells me.
*This article has been corrected to show that the Trinity School is on the Upper West Side, not the Upper East.