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Big Changes at Newsweek/The Daily Beast

Newsweek has just announced a few big changes. Jane Spencer, one of the founding editors of The Daily Beast, is leaving on a sabbatical, but will continue to contribute as International Editor at Large.

Deidre Depke, a one-time editor of Newsweek.com, is returning to the company to succeed Spencer as the site’s new Executive Editor. Depke rejoins Newsweek/The Daily Beast from The Week’s website.

Tom Watson has also been promoted to Managing Editor and Louise Roug, another former staffer, is coming back to serve as Foreign Editor. Roug begins next month.

Below is the full memo announcing the changes from Tina Brown:

In January, Jane Spencer came to me to say that after four years of intense newsroom focus and responsibility she felt a great wanderlust to travel abroad on a sabbatical. We began planning how she could do this and next month that moment will arrive as Jane departs on the first leg of her six months abroad.

She won’t be leaving us entirely though: while on her travels, she’ll keep her hand in the Beastly mix as International Editor at Large, consulting for Newsweek & The Daily Beast to expand our already robust global footprint. And she’ll continue to write for us, which is a great boon because in addition to being an innovative editor Jane is a terrific reporter having won a Pulitzer Prize as part of a team in her days at The Wall Street Journal.

With her relentless energy and creative editorial flair, Jane was a primary partner in launching The Daily Beast in 2008 and has been essential in transforming our once-tiny start up into a thriving, rapidly growing global news and opinion site that last month hit a record traffic high just shy of 12 million unique visitors a month. Since I gave her day-to-day editorial oversight of The Daily Beast, the site has been on a tear redoubling its focus on original reporting and commentary, as well as expanding its video and multimedia offerings. And, of course, in the past year Jane has been key to the integration of The Daily Beast, Newsweek.com and Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog onto a single digital platform. Under her watch, the site’s monthly audience has more than doubled from 5.6 million uniques in January 2011 to 11.8 million uniques last month.

As a leader and manager, Jane is warm, enthusiastic and collaborative. She has built a cohesive and brilliant team who keep the site running 24 hours a day with high spirits, and genuine excitement for the news. During her tenure here, The Beast has been honored with a Front Page Award for Multimedia and three National Magazine Awards nominations for digital media, including general excellence, news and opinion. She’s a collaborative colleague with endless reserves of positive energy and is simply a pleasure to work with.

With this news, I’m excited that we are able to turn to an experienced and creative force in digital journalism in Deidre Depke to continue the explosive growth of The Daily Beast. Deidre will become the Executive Editor of The Daily Beast, reporting to me, overseeing daily news coverage on the site and the digital operations of Newsweek magazine and helping to launch new channels, products and other initiatives.

Deidre is a highly experienced editor of magazines and Web sites in New York City. She served most recently as General Manager of TheWeek.com, where she successfully oversaw editorial, product development, audience management and other key areas of the organization.

She is no stranger to Newsweek, of course. She was Editor of Newsweek.com, building the site from a re-launch in 2000 to become the dominate newsmagazine website at the time. Under Deidre’s leadership, Newsweek.com won numerous awards. Deidre first joined Newsweek in 1997 as Foreign Editor, running the magazine’s award-winning coverage of overseas news. She is also a former reporter and editor at BusinessWeek.

Deidre will be here today to say hello and will officially start later this month.

I also am very pleased to announce that Tom Watson will become Managing Editor, recognition of the vital and critical role he plays in producing the site and the weekly magazine. He will continue to be the force he is at The Beast on our superb political coverage. His direction of our extensive political coverage in print and online has established NewsBeast as a go-to destination for news and commentary on the volatile 2012 election. With his deep experience and his knowledge of both organizations, Tom has been critical in integrating Newsweek & The Daily Beast into a successful multi-platform news organization.

We all value his wise counsel and friendship and I am delighted to announce this well-deserved promotion.

Tunku Varadarajan, who is editing the smashingly successful updated front of the book for all editions of the magazine in addition to his duties as Editor of Newsweek International, and I are beyond happy to report that Louise Roug is returning to the company after her own six months abroad. Louise will become Foreign Editor, overseeing our international news coverage for the domestic edition of Newsweek and for The Daily Beast. Louise will rejoin us next month.

As many of you know firsthand, Louise is a deft and enormously energetic editor. Since she left us last year as Deputy Editor of Newsweek International, Louise has presented and lead “The Globe,” a two-hour daily foreign affairs radio show in Copenhagen. Perhaps one of the reasons she inspires such loyalty among her writers and reporters is the fact that she has deep and varied experience as a correspondent herself. She was a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times covering the 2008 presidential election, an arts and culture staff writer, and a foreign correspondent in Iraq (for which she was a Pulitzer finalist) and the Middle East.

We are also looking forward to Jesse Wegman’s imminent arrival as a Senior Editor for Newsweek & The Daily Beast, focusing on news and legal issues.

Please join me at 2:30 p.m. in Prow 2 to congratulate Jane and Tom and welcome (back) Deidre and Louise as well as Jesse and to toast the company’s success.

Tina Brown

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