The newsroom at The Washington Times is suffering from low morale and a pervading sense of confusion about the future of the organization, say current and former employees -all of whom requested anonymity to speak freely. Over the course of many interviews, including several with employees who were let go during the most recent re-org, a complicated picture emerges: TWT is now a fraction of the size it used to be, with only around 30 newsroom staff, less than half of whom are actual reporters. There is talk from the top of big profits last year and of a New Media-driven renaissance in the next, but the rank and file are anything but inspired. Some are angry, some are hopeful, and some are just keeping their heads down. What can’t be denied is that no one knows what will happen next -no one, that is, except for Editor John Solomon.
One reporter who survived said that while they were happy to have a job, they had “no idea” what Solomon’s next move would be. “We keep hearing that changes are coming in the new year, but no one really knows what changes.”
Whatever he does have in mind for TWT, Solomon is keeping his cards close to his chest. His stated goal is to bring TWT into the 21st century -specifically by replacing the copy desk with a multi-platform universal desk, and by devoting more resources to television, radio, and the web. But as far as what kind of reporter will be needed to carry out his vision, he’s not really saying.
Reporters who were let go expressed confusion over why exactly they had been axed.
“Solomon kept saying things about doing more TV and more online media, ” said one. “Then he mentioned something about needing to do more ‘sourced’ reporting -whatever that means. He also said it wasn’t performance based, but that they wanted to focus less on policy. What am I supposed to make of all that?”
Another fired reporter was likewise flummoxed. “He mentioned the need for having more of a web presence, but we have been putting up web videos. I just put up a video the day before.”