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National Journal Announces Newsroom Revamp, 10 Layoffs

National Journal‘s newsroom operation is making big shifts. The news outlet will be divided into “two distinct teams” — one for members, another for digital. Outgoing Editor-in-Chief Ron Fournier will be the “star reporter” on the digital platform. His titles are Editorial Director and National Correspondent. Brownstein, who will also write for digital, is shifting into a new corporate-level role of Editorial Director for Strategic Partnerships for Atlantic Media. Amid these changes also come 10 editorial layoffs.

They won’t name names.

“First, however, some unwelcome news,” a memo released to the newsroom today states. “One component of the reorganization involves eliminating 10 positions in the newsroom. We understand this is deeply disappointing for all of National Journal’s 174 employees. We have notified the individuals affected and will be working with them in the days and weeks ahead to assist with their transition.”

Atlantic Spokeswoman Linda Douglass wouldn’t discuss the departing employees. She told FishbowlDC: “This is an effort to take NationalJournal.com national in addition to serving insiders in Washington to aim at a national audience of sophisticated readers who are interested in politics and policy.”

The memo states that Fournier, in his new role, will now be able to devote nearly all of his time to reporting, writing and tweeting! We certainly hope he lets loose with his tweeting.

See the immense memo from Bruce Gottlieb, President of National Journal Group. We’ve bolded the important parts so your brain doesn’t explode reading it…

By now, many of you will have heard that we are reorganizing National Journal’s newsroom for 2013. I’ll get into more detail in a moment. But let me say at the outset that we are making these changes because they will leave National Journal stronger and better positioned to serve our readers. And they will help make us an organization where every employee has a clear path to success. I look forward to discussing the details of this important transformation with each of you in the days and weeks ahead.

First, however, some unwelcome news. One component of the reorganization involves eliminating 10 positions in the newsroom. We understand this is deeply disappointing for all of National Journal’s 174 employees. We have notified the individuals affected and will be working with them in the days and weeks ahead to assist with their transition.

Please allow me to emphasize that all of our departing colleagues have been exemplary citizens and contributors to National Journal. This decision is in no way a comment on their abilities, which are first rate, or their dedication to our company, which is beyond question. They have our deepest respect and gratitude.

To help explain why we are making this difficult decision—and as background for our broader strategic realignment—let me give a quick sketch of where things stand today. This has been a year with many important successes, starting with the extraordinary work of the editorial team during the 2012 electoral cycle. In our magazine, on NationalJournal.com, in the Daily, and on Hotline, you produced insight and analysis that drove the political conversation. Our digital traffic has tripled in the past two years; our circulation has increased as well. And we have built, and are continuing to build, deep and lasting partnerships with first-tier media organizations such as CBS.

On the revenue side, just 15 months ago, we made the decision to become a Membership organization. Under the extraordinary leadership of Poppy MacDonald, in the first four months we had signed up 306 of Washington’s most prominent organizations as charter Members. And just this week we signed up our 800th. Our members represent the full range of Washington players on nearly every issue—from Allstate to Wal-Mart, AFL-CIO to AARP, Sierra Club to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And this is in addition to our ongoing subscription relationship with all Members and staff in both branches of Congress, the White House, and the senior leadership of agencies and departments across the executive branch.

Our success in Membership has driven significant growth in overall revenue from readers in 2012. And in the months and years ahead, we expect to grow to over 1,000 members—representing nearly every significant policy-focused organization and institution in Washington. As part of this effort, we have also established a best-in-class team of 14 researchers and analysts dedicated to serving our Members and helping them succeed at their jobs. Today we have over 740 charts, graphs and customizable PowerPoint documents that have been downloaded over 17,000 times, as well as a research study, The New Tools of Advocacy, that 90% of Members “highly recommend” to their peers.

Our events business also continues to boom—we are on track to host 80 separate events this year, including 35 during the political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte.

The biggest challenge we have faced in 2012 has been due to the inside-the-Beltway print advertising market, which has been soft for us, just as it has been for virtually every news organization in Washington. Thanks to the hard work of Victoria Monroe and Connie Witherspoon and our advertising team, we have successfully defended our market share even during this challenging period.

As we move into 2013, I am confident that we will emerge better able to showcase the extraordinary journalism that is our hallmark. We will do so by remaining true to the qualities that have always defined National Journal—a fierce intelligence, unparalleled understanding of how Washington really works, and an unwavering belief in the force of reason. And we will do so by recognizing that even successful media enterprises such as ours must continuously evolve—eliminating commodity coverage and doubling down on areas where our contributions remain vital and distinctive and are duplicated nowhere else.

In this spirit, I am pleased to announce some important changes to our editorial organization. The most significant is a reorganization of our newsroom into two distinct teams, each relentlessly focused on serving an important audience.

The first is our Membership team. This team’s mission is to preserve and extend the extraordinary quality of our existing products such as the Magazine, Daily, and Hotline. Its mission also includes developing ground-breaking new products to deliver actionable intelligence on Congress and the rest of Washington—all in the service of our members and subscribers who need smart, reliable information on politics and policy in order to do their jobs.

The second is our Digital team. After much consideration, we have decided to expand NationalJournal.com to a truly national website, focused not just on the insider’s Washington, but on the full range of political and policy issues of interest to a broad audience of sophisticated readers across the country. Our sister property TheAtlantic.com provides an inspiring model. Just five years ago, it had only six dedicated employees and less than half a million unique visitors each month. Today, it has almost 50 dedicated employees and serves over 18 million unique visitors. While the voice and sensibility of NationalJournal.com must remain uniquely National Journal’s, there is no reason why we cannot emulate this same growth path—coupling editorial excellence with a solid economic foundation.

As part of this shift, Ron Brownstein will take on a corporate-level role of Editorial Director for Strategic Partnerships for Atlantic Media. Author of this cycle’s most distinctive and predictive coverage (“The New Math” and “Neither Party Can Assume …” ), Ron will continue to provide his groundbreaking writing and analysis for National Journal (and our sister publications The Atlantic and Quartz), as well as to build multi-platform strategic partnerships such as our Next Economy and Next America projects.

As you know, Ron Fournier will take on the role of Editorial Director for National Journal as well as serve as a National Correspondent on our Digital team. On our new national website, so important to our overall strategy, Ron will assume the star performing role—as the lead reporter, writer, and editorial personality. As Editor-in-Chief, Ron has played the key role in building National Journal into a news organization far stronger, more vital, and with greater impact than the organization he inherited. And he still found time in 2012 to write two of the most influential political stories of the cycle (“In Nothing We Trust” and “How (and Why) Romney Played the Race Card”) and file opinion-shaping debate and post-election analyses. His new role will allow Ron to devote almost all his time to writing, reporting and tweeting. He also will serve as the primary advisor to National Journal’s senior management on overall editorial strategy and related issues.

As for the editorial leaders of our two teams, they will be composed of the same individuals who lead our newsroom today.

Charlie Green—one of the city’s most able and respected editors, and a leader whose integrity, judgment, wisdom, and service to National Journal are without equal—has agreed to head the Membership team. Charlie will be ably assisted by Adam Kushner, who will serve as executive editor of our magazine, Jim Oliphant as deputy editor, and Michael Hirsh as Chief Correspondent.

Kristin Roberts will quarterback our new cross-platform Congressional leadership team, with help from Chris Frates. This is a significant new initiative for us, focused on an area in which National Journal has always excelled—but updated with a renewed focus on breaking news about Congressional leadership that isn’t available anywhere else. I am incredibly excited to see the fruits of this important investment.

Reid Wilson will continue to serve as our irreplaceable Hotline editor and Glen Justice will continue to shine as the leader of our push team. Major Garrett will serve as our Correspondent-at-Large, in addition to his duties as chief White House Correspondent for CBS. And Charlie Cook will continue to contribute his peerless coverage of electoral politics.

The Digital team will be led on an acting basis by Alissa Swango, who has played such a critical role in growing our traffic during the 2012 political cycle. Alissa will report to Charlie in her role as deputy digital editor as we search for a digital editor in 2013. The politics channel of the website will be led by Josh Kraushaar and the policy channel will be led by Caren Bohan. Correspondents will include Matt Cooper, Chris Frates, Ron Fournier, Ron Brownstein, Jill Lawrence, and Beth Reinhard.

Patsy Wilson will serve as Charlie’s deputy across all platforms.

In closing, let me say that I look forward to 2013 as an exciting year. In a city easily distracted by hype and rumor, National Journal has always stood for something greater. We don’t just cover the landscape, we help shape it, clarify it, and put it into context.  It is a great honor to be part of the team that will carry this defining legacy forward.

Bruce Gottlieb

President, National Journal Group

Eliminating 10 positions in the news room — various editorial positions.

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