The Washington Post’s difficult year continued this week after a report outlined financial struggles and internal frustrations at the newspaper, and it learned one of its top political reporters was on his way out.
The New York Times reported the Post was on track to lose money this year after years of profitability, has lost digital subscribers since 2020 and may have to cut 100 newsroom positions, in some form or fashion. It also outlined newsroom tensions with publisher Fred Ryan over his focus on in-office workplace attendance and perceived lack of journalist productivity, the newspaper’s lackadaiscal marketing efforts and other broader strategy questions.
A Washington Post insider told Fox News Digital the Times’ story came as a surprise in the newsroom.
“We knew some of it but the leaked documents were new,” they said. “The upshot is that some people in management aren’t happy with Fred [Ryan], or why would they leak stuff to undermine him?”
WASHINGTON POST’S DAVE WEIGEL LEAVING PAPER THIS YEAR FOR DIGITAL MEDIA START-UP SEMAFOR
Ryan was especially annoyed, according to the report, at journalists flouting the requirement to work out of the office three days a week, and has received internal pushback from reporters who covered the COVID-19 pandemic.
The insider said the larger issues at the paper remain the economy and whether it truly will cause cutbacks – a Post spokesperson told the Times the organization was not removing positions and declined additional comment – and where executive editor Sally Buzbee wants to take the newsroom, which has seen major hiring and reporting initiatives in areas like climate change and democracy.
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have added subscribers in the Joe Biden era, the Times report noted. The Post memorably affixed the motto “Democracy Dies In Darkness” one month after President Trump took office in 2017, although it denied it was a direct response to his rhetoric against the media. Like many other news outlets, it enjoyed newfound attention and profitability in the tumultuous news cycles that marked Trump’s presidency.
WASHINGTON POST’S QUIET SUSPENSION OF REPORTER PAUL FARHI LATEST DRAMA FOR NEWSPAPER
The Times report on the Washington Post came on the heels of the pending departure of Dave Weigel, the veteran Post political reporter who will join the global news start-up Semafor after the 2022 midterms. Staff turnover happens all the time – the Post also saw the recent departures of media columnist Margaret Sullivan and longtime editor Tracy Grant – but Weigel’s departure was linked in part to his controversial suspension in June by the Post for retweeting a joke mocking women.
Insiders told Fox News Digital he was peeved about the punishment – a one-month suspension, one of the most severe possible short of a firing – over sharing a joke for which he swiftly apologized. He was lambasted for the joke on Twitter at the time by fellow Post reporter Felicia Sonmez, touching off a bizarre saga where she repeatedly, publicly ripped into her colleagues, as well as the paper’s workplace culture and social media rules. She was eventually fired.
THE WASHINGTON POST’S WEEK FROM HELL
The drama ultimately led to an issuance of new social media guidelines at the paper under Buzbee, who took over the role last year. Sources said Weigel had been warned previously about his social media usage.
“A Post journalist’s use of social media must not harm the editorial integrity or journalistic reputation of The Post,” the memo obtained by Fox News Digital read. “Your association with The Post gives you a large platform and may bring you a blue checkmark and added followers. Along with that comes our collective responsibility to protect that integrity and reputation. This guidance applies to content you post or amplify – such as in a retweet, like or share – on any digital platform.”
The Post has had a turbulent summer in addition to the Twitter turmoil. The paper was forced to add a lengthy editor’s note to a 2018 op-ed penned by actress Amber Heard, which was as the center of a defamation lawsuit against Johnny Depp after she accused her ex-husband of domestic abuse.
The Depp-Heard trial then spawned another controversy for the Post involving columnist Taylor Lorenz after two YouTube personalities who covered the trial she had written about blasted her for claiming she had reached out to them prior to publication. Lorenz then publicly blamed her editor for including the erroneous remark. That had a further domino effect as that editor, who is well-liked among colleagues, had a job promotion rescinded by executive editor Sally Buzbee. Buzbee denies the reversal is tied to the fallout of Lorenz’s report.
Then Buzbee endured a Vanity Fair profile that featured anonymous staffers sniping at her leadership style and handling of the various controversies.Become a Sponsor this one is for you