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Alan Murray to leave Wall Street Journal for Pew Research Center

(Reuters) - Alan Murray is leaving the Wall Street Journal to assume the role of president of the Pew Research Center, effective in January, the center announced on Friday.

Murray, 57, is currently the Journal's deputy managing editor and online executive editor. In his new role he will oversee the Pew Research Center's seven projects covering topics ranging from journalism to religion to social trends.

"I have watched in the last 30 years as trusted facts have become an endangered species," Murray told Reuters in an interview.

As part of the Washington-based Pew Charitable Trusts, the non-partisan Pew Research Center's mission is to inform the press, public and policy makers. Murray, in the statement announcing his appointment, described the Center as a "rock of reliable information amidst a sea of supposition and spin."

Before the taking the position at the Pew Research Center, Murray was considered a potential candidate to take the top job at the Journal, media observers said. His move paves the way for Deputy Editor Gerard Baker, whose name has also surfaced as a successor to Managing Editor Robert Thomson.

Thomson is widely considered the front-runner to lead News Corp's publishing company, which will consist of the Journal and its sister newspapers such as the Times of London and The Australian.

Dow Jones and News Corp declined to comment. Murray declined to comment about a successor to his Journal position. Baker and Thomson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Murray started with the Journal in 1983 and served in various positions, including Washington bureau chief. During his tenure the newspaper won three Pulitzer Prizes.

Known as a thought leader in the industry for digital news, Murray helped grow and expand the Journal's online operations, considered to be one of the industry's most successful.

In a note to employees, Thomson said of Murray that "no words can capture the gratitude I have for his enduring contribution to the Journal and to journalism."

Murray said he had been talking with the Pew Center since the summer but that his decision had nothing to do with the Journal's change of ownership from the Bancroft family to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

"I think Rupert Murdoch and Robert Thomson have saved this paper," Murray told Reuters.

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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