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Posts Tagged ‘Tom McDevitt’

TWT’s Liberal Roots May be Showing

With heavy changes underway at TWT and today’s announcement that John Solomon‘s full power at the paper will be restored, it’s a valuable exercise to review how things were before when, say, Solomon was previously in charge.

In one memory, Solomon and President Tom McDevitt sat at a fold-up table in the lobby trying to sell President Obama-headlined T-shirts and Obama commemorative coffee-table books. Not exactly TWT‘s market, but hey, what the hell? It’s a free country.

From a TWT insider: “This raises the question, ‘What is the Washington Times?’ TWT’s brand has always been as a conservative alternative to the Post, but Solomon is not and never has been a conservative, having worked at the liberal Post, a liberal wire service and the George Soros-funded Center for Public Integrity. He persecuted conservatives last time he was editor of the paper and pushed a hard pro-Obama line, which went so far as to fill the walls of the building with framed copies of A1 cover pages promoting the liberal president. Looks like the Moonies bought the same snake oil that failed to solve their problems before.”

By the way, this is the FIFTH change of editor in five years.

See the T-shirt they sold…

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TWT’s Solomon Wins FBDC Truthiness Award

If “John Solomon Sour Grapes Syndrome” were in the DSM as a psychological disorder, it might be described like this: The affliction occurs when you try to bullshit or smear a reporter so much that you no longer grasp fact from fiction.

John Solomon, the newly reinstalled executive at The Washington Times who left his editorial post in 2009, is plotting an award for yours truly — something along the lines of Poor Journalism Award. “The moron thinks this is very clever without realizing it makes TWT look adolescent,” said a TWT insider familiar with Solomon’s plot to smear FBDC. Solomon, now Chief Digital Officer, was recently discussing the matter with a couple of overpaid suits and apparently has a piece written about my alleged mistakes in reporting on TWT as of late, stories that included writeups on executives monitoring employee phone calls and bulking up security as impending layoffs loomed. So we thought we’d get out in front of him and give him an award first, because he’s that special.

Today we officially bestow on Solomon the FBDC Truthiness Award, given to the Washington, D.C. journalist who has a loose and goofy grasp on the truth.

For example, for months before he was reappointed, Solomon told friends in the industry that he wasn’t coming back to TWT, had no interest in going back to TWT, had too many of his own projects cooking to get involved in “the mess here” and that he was only doing a couple projects for TWT Chairman Tom McDevitt because TWT owed him a lot of money. But once that was paid, he would happily move on and be gone. Oh, really, John? Guess that yarn worked to keep interested parties off your trail for a little until the ink was dry on your new employment agreement.

After we reported on Dec. 17 that Solomon was reviewing all departments to help determine which TWT staffers would be among those given pink slips, he reached out wanting to talk. No matter that none of the executives at TWT have agreed to speak with me for any of my stories, despite reaching out to them repeatedly on basic and more intricate facts, the detail on Solomon was minor. It was, nonetheless, triple-sourced.

On Dec. 19, 2012, Solomon wrote by email, “John Solomon here. Is there a good number and time to reach you at?” We flinched at the poor grammar of a former TWT Executive Editor-turned consultant, but returned his email. On Dec. 20, I wrote, “Got your note. I’m a bit swamped today. But yes, of course, can chat with you after 2. Why don’t you give me your number so I can call you when I’m off deadline?”

After 2 p.m. we had that conversation… Read more

TWT Head Honchos Struggle to Catch Leakers

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.

Here’s where things get strange….At the party, CEO Larry Beasley (a.k.a. “Evil Santa”), who drove up from Florida in his honking motorhome to take the job, joked that someone should… Read more

Depressing Update: TWT Newsroom Uses Charlie Brown to Cope With Impending Layoffs

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

TWT Beefs Up Security, E-mail, Phone Surveillance Amid Impending Layoffs

The Washington Times has bulked up security at the building and hired new guards. Security in the main lobby last week shifted from one guard to three, with another patrolling the parking lot. The reasoning? Sources tell FishbowlDC it’s the impending layoffs. The company consistently beefs up security before layoffs, a TWT insider insists — one of those little details employees notice when they know bad news is coming.

“The last time they did it, they beefed up,” said a former TWT editor on condition of anonymity. “One thing I noticed before, is security would do a building walk through once a day. When it was the weeks before the layoffs, they were walking around the building multiple times a day. It was another reminder that we were waiting for the axe to fall.”

On Nov. 28, Editor David Jackson sent out a company-wide email saying layoffs were imminent but provided few details. See WaPo Erik Wemple‘s report here. In his letter, Jackson announced that there would be a “reduction” and “reorganization” of staff. He wrote, “Reductions in staffing will be a one-time only process. We do not intend to go through this again.” Hardly words of comfort. Ever since that email went out, the newsroom has been on edge waiting for the gauntlet to fall, the noose to tighten, the Grim Reaper to appear (take your pick of terrible metaphors).

If increased security wasn’t indication enough, sources say TWT management has ramped up its surveillance of employees — checking phone logs, monitoring people’s emails and tracking forwarded emails to try to plug leaks. “Everyone is texting because they are afraid to use email,” an employee told FishbowlDC. “It’s complete panic mode. Everyone is trying to stay out of the system. You don’t know when it’s going happen or who it’s going to happen to.”

The aforementioned former editor above also found his office in slight disarray on numerous occasions. Papers would be moved around. Drawers opened. “Emails that I was sure I had disappeared from my email box,” the former editor said. “Seemed like people were in there looking for something. It’s that kind of a paranoid place. Disagreement was seen as a sign of disloyalty.”

Some journalists have been warned against forwarding emails… Read more

TWT President Announces His Own Promotion

With the resignation of Douglas Joo, Tom McDevitt, formerly President of TWT, is now Chairman of the publication and its Board of Directors. Joo is reportedly focusing his time on “new assignments in Korea,” leaving a vacancy for McDevitt. The newspaper has hired Larry Beasley as the new President and CEO. The board formally learned of Joo’s resignation at an Oct. 3 meeting. Joo, a member of the Unification Church, which, in part, owns the Times, had worked for the newspaper for 30 years. U.S. News & World Report reported on Monday that Beasley is the first President who isn’t a member of the Unification Church. They reported the news of Joo’s “abrupt departure” on Saturday. Hmmm….is 30 years abrupt? They do hint at a pending lawsuit in Korea.

See the internal memo…

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TWT Prez Calls for Prayers: Rev. Myung Moon in Critical Condition in Seoul

TWT employees are on pins and needles as they’ve only recently learned that Rev. Myung Moon, the founder of the paper, is in critical condition.The 93-year-old is in intensive care in a hospital in Seoul, Korea with symptoms of pneumonia. TWT President Tom McDevitt released a memo to staff Wednesday. AP reported the news Wednesday. TWT and other outlets such as HuffPost and all ran the AP version of the story. UPDATE: It appears AP and Jim Romenesko came in with the story within one hour of each other with Romensko coming in first. Still, outlets ran with the AP story. The above has been altered to reflect this.

McDevitt called for staff prayers.

See the memo…

TWT Staff Meeting at 11:30 AM

Another heaping helping of the piping hot casserole of crazy coming out of The Washington Times this morning: After a press release and a memo about the press release were issued in reference to TWT‘s major management overhaul, an email was finally sent to staff, inviting them to freak out meet in the ballroom at 11:30 for a meeting to discuss moving forward in a financially responsible manner.


Memo after the jump.

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TWT Eliminates Merit Raises

In an email to The Washington Times staff this morning, president and publisher Tom McDevitt announced an elimination of merit raises, saying the paper is not immune to “economic forces.”

A longtime reporter we spoke to said this was “better than getting laid off or having a 15 percent pay cut. It’s all oddly relative.”

McDevitt’s email below:

Dear TWT Colleagues,

I am sure you are aware of the various difficulties our industry is experiencing. In addition to significant layoffs and buyouts, many newspaper employers have been forced to decrease their employee’s salaries and eliminate or reduce employment benefits.

Although the substantial evidence of our progress continues to grow, we are not immune to those same economic forces. The course of events with the economy is having an impact on The Washington Times as well. That is why we are making every effort to wisely reduce costs and grow revenues through a range of innovative programs.

Consequently, one of our significant cost saving measures for this new fiscal year will be to maintain compensation at our current levels by eliminating merit raises. We ask for your understanding in these difficult economic times.

We will also use this opportunity to align our performance management process with the ending of our fiscal year. This means that we will transition everyone to a common review date in the first fiscal quarter of FY10, evaluating performance based on the FY09 goals of the company. You will hear more about this in the coming weeks.

Thank you for you understanding and, most of all, thank you for all you do each day to move The Washington Times forward, serving our readers, advertisers and partners.


Tom McDevitt

More Washington Times News

An internal email sent from Washington Times President Tom McDevitt, obtained by FishbowlDC:

    Dear Washington Times Colleagues:

    I am happy to share more details of the exciting plans for the future growth in distribution and influence of The Washington Times.

    This week and next we are launching 13 Task Forces staffed with close to 80 Washington Times employees. Based on our new strategic plan, these working groups will help reshape our products and processes to better serve customers. Clearly, the foundation for these new developments is the distinctive and reliable market position set forth by The Washington Times in the past 25 years. Our ambitious, yet achievable goal is to significantly extend our online presence while also growing our print circulation.

    Though the overall course has been set, many details will be worked out through the Task Force process and in consultation with our readers and advertisers. Please keep an open mind as you hear about potential changes, and be assured that they are being considered as part of an aggressive plan for growth. While it is possible some areas of coverage and activities may be reduced, others will be expanded, providing new opportunities for employees to learn, to grow and to contribute to a healthy future for our organization.

    Our research shows that there are more and better ways to serve our core audience and attract new print and online readers with the special kind of reporting only the Times can provide. Our primary aim is to meet the changing needs of our readers and advertisers by doing what we do best. For example, we are considering a groundbreaking retooling of our weekend products to best showcase our superior news and analysis both online and in print. Ultimately, this new weekend offering will likely replace our existing editions.

    The timelines for rolling out new products and services are aggressive: we want to minimize any uncertainty for our employees, our readers and our advertisers. And we want to bring exciting new products to market as soon as we can. Completing the transformation of our processes will take longer. This is not a quick fix, but a sustained improvement in the ways we operate. The Washington Times is committed to being a highly responsive and responsible organization, for our employees, our readers, our advertisers and our partners.

    Please know I will continue to keep you informed of our progress in the coming weeks and months.

    Thank you.

    Tom McDevitt