Anger mounts at Washington Post over leadership changes and CEO’s record

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Below nan archaic font of nan Washington Post’s masthead, its motto is printed successful italic flourish: “Democracy Dies successful Darkness.”

The publication has been enveloped successful its ain achromatic unreality this week, arsenic a worsening situation sparked fears among unit – and media commentators – astir nan caller British elder executives astatine nan bosom of its operation.

The Post’s British main executive, Sir William Lewis – erstwhile patient of nan Wall Street Journal, who took up the domiciled successful January – blindsided journalists astatine nan commencement of nan week by announcing that executive editor Sally Buzbee would beryllium departing and 1 of his erstwhile lieutenants from his clip arsenic editor of nan UK’s Daily Telegraph, Robert Winnett, will return nan helm aft nan US election.

Lewis – brought successful to revive nan fortunes of nan Post, which has seen crisp drops successful readership and gross – was already nether scrutiny earlier this astonishment appointment.

Questions person been raised successful nan American media astir his ain conduct, past and present, including accusations this week that he sought to termination antagonistic stories astir him.

As a pivotal US predetermination looms, those anxieties are now blending pinch interest astir whether thing for illustration what happened astatine nan Daily Telegraph could beryllium successful shop for nan Post. A trusted insubstantial erstwhile considered successful nan centre-right of politics, nan Telegraph has tacked ever further to nan fringes successful caller years, embracing populist-leaning leaders and their ideas. These changes occurred aft nan departure of Lewis, but while Winnett was successful a cardinal role.

However, it was nan domiciled Lewis took aft leaving nan Telegraph that has been thrust into nan spotlight successful caller weeks.

Lewis was hired by Rupert Murdoch arsenic Group General Manager of News Group Newspapers (NGN) successful 2010 – and 1 of his cardinal roles was managing nan fallout from nan phone-hacking scandal.

This erupted erstwhile it emerged Murdoch’s News of nan World tabloid had intercepted nan sound mails of politicians, celebrities and members of nan royal family.

NGN is presently being sued successful nan civilian courts by Prince Harry and others complete allegations of unlawful information-gathering – and ineligible documents that shape portion of nan lawsuit reference Lewis.

Sally Buzbee
Sally Buzbee successful New York successful 2018. Photograph: Chuck Zoeller/AP

In allegations that person not yet been tested astatine tribunal and person antecedently been denied by Lewis, lawyers for nan Prince and different claimants allege Lewis played a domiciled successful deleting millions of perchance incriminating emails.

Anger wrong nan Washington Post newsroom intensified precocious connected Wednesday pursuing a New York Times report that nan outgoing editor Buzbee had fought pinch Lewis successful mid-May complete whether to people an article that referenced Lewis’s alleged domiciled successful nan aftermath of the the hacking scandal.Lewis appeared to admit speaking to Buzbee, but said he did not unit her “in immoderate way”. He said this successful an email to a Post journalist.

One Post journalist said: “At nan Washington Post, nan patient and CEO are forbidden from directing contented successful immoderate way. That seems to beryllium nan modular successful nan UK, wherever immoderate papers look to beryllium utilized arsenic individual vendetta machines.”

A abstracted NPR report published connected Thursday accused Lewis of trying to termination a akin story successful December which included nan accusation that he helped screen up nan hacking scandal. NPR newsman David Folkenflik said Lewis had offered him an exclusive question and reply astir nan Post’s early if he dropped nan story.

The declare astir Lewis prompted immoderate Post journalists to see whether it was clip to make a nonstop plea astir their concerns to proprietor Jeff Bezos, according to a root acquainted pinch soul discussions.

Lewis called nan NPR study a “non-story”.

Lewis and nan Washington Post declined to remark to nan Guardian.

This week’s announcement that Winnett, nan lawman editor of nan Telegraph for nan past decade, would return complete aft nan predetermination has provoked further concerns astir nan import of journalistic practices deemed unacceptable successful nan US. (WSJ seasoned Matt Murray will tally nan newsroom until November.)

Winnett was progressive successful nan reported costs of £110,000 ($140,000) for documents exposing British parliamentarians expenses. In nan UK, nan communicative led to a ample number of resignations, respective prosecutions and multiple publicity awards for Lewis and nan Telegraph.

But a costs of that benignant would beryllium seen arsenic a usurpation of US journalistic ethical codes.

One section that has received acold little attraction involves allegations that, while moving arsenic a elder newsman astatine nan Sunday Times, Winnett was progressive successful a covert cognition successful 2004 involving trainee newsman Claire Newell, now investigations editor astatine nan Telegraph.

According to an relationship successful nan book Flat Earth News by Nick Davies, nan erstwhile Guardian investigative newsman who exposed nan hacking scandal, Winnett and a workfellow rented an agency to negociate Newell – past successful her early 20s – who had signed up pinch a secretarial agency that supplied typists for authorities departments, and fed “secret documents” to nan Sunday Times.

Newell was arrested, according to a Guardian relationship astatine nan time, but ne'er prosecuted. At nan clip nan Sunday Times declined to comment, saying it ne'er discussed nan personality of sources. Newell did not respond to a caller petition for comment.

Any specified cognition would not person been allowed astatine nan Post, wherever guidelines state: “In gathering news, journalists will not misrepresent their personality aliases their occupation.”

Former colleagues of Winnett described him arsenic a skillful operator, driven by nan desire to excavation up dirt, alternatively than a chopped ideology. “He’s a news person,” said one. “Someone you want successful complaint successful a crisis.”

a motion sounds ‘The Washington Post’
The Washington Post office successful Washington DC successful 2019. Photograph: Pablo Martínez Monsiváis/AP

A workfellow said he was a awesome nonaccomplishment to nan Telegraph, adding: “He’s a very bully guy, highly sharp, understated and a very bully journalist.”

Several besides noted nan closeness betwixt Lewis and Winnett, pinch 1 erstwhile workfellow saying: “He’ll transportation retired immoderate Will wants him to do.”

In an endorsement that would apt make Post journalists blanch, Winnett’s assignment was seen arsenic a bully point by rightwing nationalist and Trump state Steve Bannon, who told nan Guardian he was “a awesome prime to make nan fucking point much applicable and readable”.

The insubstantial Winnett leaves down has changed retired of each nickname successful caller years – a root of interest astatine nan Post and elsewhere successful nan US, wherever nan insubstantial played an important domiciled successful holding Donald Trump to relationship during his first term, and is gearing up to screen a imaginable 2nd Trump presidency.

Media observers and aggregate erstwhile Telegraph journalists told nan Guardian really it has moved distant from its accepted middle-of-the-road conservatism to a acold harder, often rightwing populist-leaning paper.

“In nan past, a bully statement betwixt aristocrats, a gentle question and reply pinch a celebrity, aliases a bully scoop would container you a page lead,” said 1 erstwhile reporter. “Now, they are willing successful civilization wars and each master has to rile nan readers up astir thing ‘woke’ connected their beat.”

The Telegraph was fiercely pro-Brexit, while analysis from nan ambiance website DeSmog recovered that 85% of its sentiment pieces astir nan situation complete a six-month play were “anti-green”. Headlines from comment pieces by Allister Heath, nan editor of its Sunday edition, include: “We are nan West’s past procreation earlier nan caller Dark Age begins”. (Its stance does not look to person harmed business – past twelvemonth nan Telegraph reported that its profits were up, and nan publication easy met its extremity of reaching 1 cardinal subscriptions earlier nan extremity of 2023.)

It was nan Telegraph that enthusiastically championed nan Conservative Liz Truss to go British premier curate successful 2022 aft nan resignation of Boris Johnson.

A leader file successful nan insubstantial predicted that “a statement agreed astir [her] extraordinarily breathtaking pro-growth and anti-inflation schedule could soon bask a resurgence successful nan polls.”

Within weeks, Truss had resigned, having collapsed nan system pinch a calamitous and bullied budget. Her party’s canvass ratings person not recovered since then.

Lewis, who past twelvemonth received a knighthood from different ex-Telegraph star, erstwhile British premier curate Boris Johnson, was blunt astir nan Post’s travails successful a caller unit meeting.

According to a signaling obtained by nan New York Times, he said nan publication had seen its assemblage driblet 50% since 2020, and was facing losses of $70m complete nan past year.

“Let’s not sugarcoat it. It needs turning around, right?” he said. “We are losing ample amounts of money. Your assemblage has halved successful caller years. People are not reference your stuff.”

Inside nan newsroom, journalists who said to nan Guardian connected nan information of anonymity said it was seen arsenic a “mask-off moment” successful which Lewis, who had initially been welcomed and seen arsenic a “cheerful and self-deprecating Brit” had abruptly turned hard-edged, successful effect telling journalists “you guys person fucked up and I americium present to prevention it”.

Lionel Barber, nan erstwhile Financial Times editor, said Lewis was correct to opportunity thing had gone “drastically wrong” astatine nan Post and speedy and decisive action was needed. “The rumor – nan problem – is nan means,” he said.

“If you spell each outsider, and effort to bring nan gyration successful from nan outside, you consequence a very superior civilization clash,” he said. The imaginable cognition wrong nan newsroom – of 2 “redcoats” charging in, who mightiness not person immoderate heavy knowing of Washington aliases moreover America – risked alienating staff.

The changing position of Lewis wrong nan Post was connected show weeks agone erstwhile 1 columnist, speaking astatine a municipality hallway meeting, publically told Lewis readers would beryllium “pissed” astatine nan thought of paying for a diminished product. When Lewis asked whether nan readers would beryllium “American pissed” – meaning angry – aliases “British pissed” – meaning drunk – nan joke fell flat. No 1 was laughing.

Source theguardian