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NJ Going Through Major Revamp, Layoffs, Buyouts, and a Search for an Editor-in-Chief

Major changes are happening at National Journal Group today. Some will be favorable – a shift to the web with more positions specializing in topics such as health care, White House, Congress and energy. And for others, this will be a hard pill to swallow.

This is especially true if you’re among the eight people who will be let go when all is said and done. There are 106 editorial employees at the publication as it stands and 98 will remain.

Here are the big points:

1. NJ is in search of an Editor-in-Chief to oversee all operations – NJ magazine, the Web Site, The Hotline and CongressDaily. Charles Green, who currently serves as Editor of National Journal, will shift into the number two spot.

2. Today at three meetings, reporters from each part of the company will receive packets with detailed information of taking buyouts should they so choose. They will be given a list of newly written reporting positions they must apply for to remain at the publication. All reporters must reapply for their posts. Those with the highest salaries will see pay cuts if they stay.

3. Columnists Stuart Taylor, Clive Crook and Jonathan Rauch are out, unless they decide to stay on and write in other capacities for NJ Magazine. Their columns have been scrapped. “Hopefully they will continue to have a presence in the magazine,” said Green.

In a phone interview this morning, Green told FishbowlDC: “We’re going to be adding positions for reporters who are more web oriented, and subtracting positions for some of the more print focused reporters. We are going to put a lot more emphasis on digital. We’re still going to maintain the quality of our print publications, but like everybody else, we recognize the future is in digital and we need to enhance our presence there.

“Everybody realizes that the media landscape is changing very quickly. We need to adapt to it.”

Green said he wasn’t nervous about the difficult meetings before him and the long day ahead. “Sure, shaking up a newsroom and reorganizing things isn’t easy, particularly when you’ve been a part of it for a fairly long time,” said Green. “But while it isn’t easy, it’s exciting to be trying to do some new things and meet some new challenges. There’s a lot of enthusiasm on my part to try to position our newsroom better to meet the challenges we’re facing to serve our readers better, and be more visible in Washington.”

He didn’t anticipate the situation to turn ugly today. “I don’t expect the meetings to get hostile,” he said. “That’s not the culture here.”

Still, doesn’t he feel slighted about not getting the number one post at the publication? “I think they felt it was helpful to bring in someone new and fresh and add to the editorial team we have,” he said. “I completely understand their thinking.”

Three months ago, owner David Bradley stepped in with Justin Smith, now president of National Journal Group, and created task forces to come up with solutions for improving the publication. Recommendations from those task forces (comprised of reporters and editors at NJ) are the basis for what is happening today.

Green said his responsibilities have increased over the years, but he explained that he has never been Editor-in-Chief of the entire operation of National Journal Group. He insisted that he would not step down. “I’m committed to making this unified newsroom work,” he said.

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