In the Newsroom
Politico‘s new SVP of Advertising and Business Development Peter Cherukuri, comes to the publication with a certain cachet. Steve Jobs he isn’t. But in the Washington media bubble, he’s considered a big deal. No doubt there’s pressure on him as Politico is banking on the hope that HuffPost‘s loss is their gain.
Sources inside Politico who attended recent staff meetings in the past few weeks let us in on details of the publication’s expansion plans. Meetings lasted up to 90 minutes. To avoid getting the bosses angry, most spoke on condition of anonymity. Read more
Politico‘s Editor-in-Chief John Harris is holding a staff meeting to sketch out the year ahead. The meeting, originally scheduled for today, has been moved to Wednesday due to a personal conflict with newsroom leaders. Harris didn’t elaborate. Staff is being given a choice of three time slots. While the meeting isn’t mandatory, employees can sign up for any of the offered times.
We do hope none of the leaders suffering from an Al Roker-related issue. Hey FakeJimVandeHei: Can you live-tweet this thing?
Something new to whisper about in the TWT newsroom.
In his first week back on the job, Wes Pruden has put his longtime “special friend” Suzanne Fields‘ column on the cover of the opinion section. This is an unusual move and another example of, ahem, raising the quality of journalism on the op-ed pages he’s now overseeing, as was stated in a recent press release. “I wouldn’t say the Suzanne Fields column is any worse than the other stuff they have put out,” said a former TWT staffer. “But this is Wes’s prerogative. If it’s mediocre, then it’s the mediocre replacing the mediocre.”
Fields’ column never gets much traffic, but her continued publication was always guaranteed because of her relationship with Pruden. In recent years, her column never went away, but it was always buried inside the section on page 4. The cover is reserved for big names and big stories by the important people involved in the stories of the day — the Speaker of the House, presidential candidates, former Secretaries of State. But perhaps more importantly, TWT‘s opinion front page is a space generally reserved for original content exclusive to the publication, not syndicated columns available in other publications like Fields’ column.
Staff has often referred to Fields’ column as “filler.” Four opinion editors, including the late Tony Blankley, have been restrained by the “Pruden-Fields Rule”, in which then-TWT President Thomas McDevitt insisted that no one can cut Fields’ column because of her “special relationship” with Pruden. McDevitt is now TWT Chairman.
We reached out to McDevitt for comment… Read more
Wednesday morning was not a calm scene inside Politico‘s newsroom. While at least three members of the newsroom staff have lost their jobs as of late, due to, in some cases, merit and the natural course of restructuring post election, some rank and file reporters and even those in higher posts, are exhibiting a case of the jitters, wondering, are we next?
Fishbowl sources inside Politico informed us that at least three reporters and one editor were spotted cruising job listings on Wednesday morning, with many whispering and worrying about the recent job cuts. “They don’t seem to understand how this method of firing people and letting the rumor mill flourish is making a lot of people unsettled,” a Politico insider told us strictly on condition of anonymity. “A lot of fear. What’s worse, there’s a sense that the bosses LIKE the fear. Strange way to motivate a staff that has helped make you rich.”
But a Politico source in a leadership role tells us their fears are unfounded, that 2013 will be a year of growth and job security. What’s more, as we’ve reported, 30 positions on both the news and business side, are expected to be filled. And Editor-in-Chief John Harris confirms the sentiment.
“Politico has very robust plans for growth ahead of us in the new year and we expect everyone who is currently on our staff to be participating in a number of new initiatives that we will be undertaking in the new year,” Harris told FishbowlDC in a phone interview.
So should reporters just take a chill pill? To put this in some context, Politico recently parted ways with a small number of employees — Photographer Jay Westcott and Politico Pro technology writer Jess Kamen and others. As it was explained to us by the Politico source in a leadership role… Read more
Well, this is awkward.
The Washington Times management is putting thumb screws to the staff to get them to rat out the leakers to FishbowlDC. On the table for consideration: calling each staffer in one by one to ask if they have any knowledge of the leaking. As we already know, Chairman Tom McDevitt has been keeping staffers’ phone records under surveillance to see what calls are coming in and going out.
TWT‘s neverending bastion of bloated suits has, so far, refused to speak to FBDC for any of our coverage. One executive reached out but refused to speak on the record — that was more a lecturing kind of phone call. A teachable moment, some might say. “Don’t you just love a media company that has an absolutely strict policy against ever talking to the press ever?” asked a TWT insider.
The past few weeks has seen a rise in stories concerning The Washington Times as some 25 people were laid off on Friday. Last month, Executive Editor David Jackson warned that a restructuring was coming, but he left out key details — such as when and who. So staffers had to endure the holidays agonizing over whether they’d even have a job come the new year. To recap: Three days later, on Monday, TWT threw staff a newsroom party — oh boy! — and fed them sugary snacks (cookies, cakes and pies) to help ease the pain of an unstable newsroom filled with uncertainty. We’re told some remained at their desks out of loyalty to the departed. At the gabfest, they formally announced that John Solomon, the editor that left under angry circumstances in 2009, was returning full-time in addition to a plate-thrower named Ian Bishop (a real journalist with a favorable rep who comes to them by way of the New York Daily News.) Both men are assuming digital roles.
Nothing says we’re not firing you like a piece of pie. In an overly cheery email to staffers, TWT COO John Martin announced that there will be a 2p.m. meeting Monday on the newsroom floor. This meeting comes on the heels of Friday’s death march in which approximately 25 newsroom staffers were called into the auditorium and told that they were being laid off.
There will be cookies and cakes and pies, hurray. “These losers running the show really think desserts will help morale on a sinking ship that just saw a huge number of their colleagues thrown overboard,” a TWT insider told FishbowlDC.
The guess is that the big news will be the resurrection of John Solomon at the publication. When he was executive editor, Solomon liked to call all-staff meetings on the news floor and he’d stand on a desk and bellow out announcements with great histrionics.
Or perhaps the joy and celebratory note is that presumably everyone invited to Monday’s meeting will be keeping their jobs.
See the email from Martin… Read more
Impending layoffs at The Washington Times, in which as much as a quarter of the newsroom employees could see pink slips, has allegedly been delayed until January. One theory for the delay is that the incompetence level of management is so high that they couldn’t get their act together in time. Another is that insider sourcing tells us that Laura, the wife of CEO Larry Beasley (whom the staff now privately refers to as “Evil Santa”) has broken her leg.
“How awful is it to hold the axe over everybody’s heads and just keep them all waiting in fear for months,” a TWT insider told FishbowlDC on condition of anonymity. “Worst possible way to handle for morale.”
A fascinating detail: The individual reviewing all the departments to decide who they retain is none other than John Solomon — who was shown the door as editor in 2009 and went on to the Center of Public Integrity and Newsweek. Solomon rarely stays at a job too long and is known for leaving under dubious circumstances.
Facing impending layoffs, TWT employees have taken to displaying depressing Charlie Brown Christmas trees in their offices to express the “Bah humbug” lack of holiday spirit in the building.
A quote from the Charlie Brown Christmas special has been internally re-attributed to current TWT chairman Tom McDevitt, the former president who many say ran company finances into the ground to the point that necessitated massive layoffs:
“I killed it! Everything I touch gets ruined!”
A TWT insider told FishbowlDC: “That Charlie Brown quote perfectly summarizes Tom McDevitt’s mismanagement of the Washington Times. He has an amazing anti-business knack for doing the exactly wrong thing 100 percent of the time. McDevitt would find a way to lose seven figures on a sidewalk lemonade stand — and that’s after Mommy and Daddy already paid for the Minutemaid mix and the paper cups.”
Ouch. Touchy stuff.
Under McDevitt’s presidency… Read more
Gallows humor is settling inside The Washington Times newsroom with each passing hour as layoffs loom in the foreground of the holiday season.
Employees are saying “Evil Santa” (the nickname bestowed on CEO Larry Beasley) is leading his reindeer to the slaughterhouse before Christmas. As for the picture here: That ugly reindeer crossing decoration is in the Human Resources office, from where the pink slips will be dispatched.
Reflecting on impending layoffs and talk of resignations beforehand, one journalist quipped, “If Evil Santa isn’t careful, he won’t have any reindeer left to make his Christmas Eve run.”