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Posts Tagged ‘John Solomon’

Confusion Reigns at TWT

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.”

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Veteran Columnist James Morrison Among Those Axed at TWT

More news coming in on the TWT re-org:

Sources close to the matter tell us that people being let go include: investigative correspondent Jeffrey Anderson, business reporter Tim Devaney, national security reporters Shaun Waterman and Kristina Wong , copy editor Lynn Pusey, desk editors Jeffrey Lea and Jason Hargreaves, and deputy foreign editor and diplomatic columnist James Morrison.

There are 11 journalists total who have been let go during this re-org, including two library staffers who left earlier this month. Editor John Solomon has said that the headcount at the TWT will not be reduced -and will, in fact, be expanded. He has not named any new hires publicly, but says that some people have been hired internally for newly created positions. He also says that announcements of external hires will be postponed for now, until those people have time to notify their employers.

“Over the course of the next four or five weeks everyone will know who landed and when,” he told FBDC. “We dont talk about specific personel moves, but some people competed and won new jobs, and some departed on their own, and some departed after the competition, in cases where we went somewhere else with the job and had an internal applicant. No one likes these processes, but I think it was pretty open. And I think at the end of the day people here understand that the newsroom is bigger, that we needed new capabilities such as a universal versus just a copy desk, and that we’re entering 2014 better suited to do the sort of things we want to do.”

FishbowlDC will be reporting more on developments in The Washington Times newsroom as we get more information in, so check back here for updates.

Solomon Calls TWT Shake Up ‘Newsroom Expansion”

Big changes are coming to The Washington Times, with 12 newsroom positions being cut, but the promise of another 25 being added. Most of the positions that were eliminated were characterized by TWT Editor John Solomon as “legacy positions.” Meanwhile, the new positions -many of which are still listed up on the TWT Careers webpage – are geared toward developing more mulit-media capacity in the newsroom.

“Yes, we said goodbye to some people that we’re going to miss,” Solomon told FBDC in a phone interview. “But we are also welcoming a large number of people that are going to bring a new energy, bring a new skill set, and carry some new responsibilities in the news room.”

Solomon is overseeing a bevy of changes at TWT, including replacing their copy desk with a “platform-agnostic” Universal desk, launching a new website, doing more TV hits, and even setting up a radio network. He also stressed repeatedly to us that the cuts were not layoffs, but rather part of a “newsroom expansion,” and that everyone whose job was eliminated was given a chance to apply for the new, multimedia-focused jobs that are being created.

“Everyone knew about this process in November,” Solomon told us. “It was laid out very clearly in a newsroom meeting. We made the decision -for the positions that were being eliminated -not to remove people from the payroll right then, but to give people an extra 6 to 7 weeks on our payroll, with the understanding that if they didn’t successfully compete for a job in one of these other spaces, that their job would officially go away by Dec 16.”

Everyone who was not rehired was officially notified as of Tuesday, Solomon says.

FishbowlDC will be reporting more on developments in The Washington Times newsroom as we get more information in, so check back here for updates.

Musical Chairs at TWT?

Sources tell FishbowlDC that a slew of journos at TWT are being made to reapply for their jobs (a la National Journal 2010 restructure). The same positions are also being offered to outside applicants. A look at the “Careers” section of their website shows that the publication has recently posted 23 job openings, including Capitol Hill Reporter, Energy, Environment and Regulation Reporter, Military Correspondent, and Universal Desk Layout Editor.

When asked about the reorg, Editor John Solomon said, “It’s the outgrowth of some savings and revenue growth we enjoyed this year. Focus is on creating a platform agnostic universal editing desk, a new national security team and a new multimedia enterprise team.”

Fishbowl Five with John Solomon

Washington Times Editor John Solomon finds himself in the midst of a widening scandal this week involving the potential government harassment of one of TWT‘s former reporters, Audrey Hudson. Hudson and TWT both sued the Department of Homeland Security last Thursday over what they claim was an unconstitutional seizure of confidential documents during a raid on Hudson’s house by Maryland and Federal authorities. The raid was ostensibly aimed at confiscating illegal firearms owned by Hudson’s husband, Paul Flanagan. But somehow, a Department of Homeland Security agent, Miguel Bosch, also ended up seizing some of Hudson’s personal documents, including notes on stories she had written that contained sensitive information, like the names and numbers of sources.

Now Solomon and Hudson want to know why Bosch took the documents in the first place, what he did with them, and who he showed them to. They see the raid and the confiscated documents as yet another example -along with the AP phone tapping scandal and the persecution of Fox’s James Rosen -of the federal government cracking down on reporters to try to get at their sources. FishbowlDC talked with John Solomon over the weekend about the case and got him to answer some questions for the Fishbowl Five. FishbowlDC also reached out to Audrey Hudson for an interview, but were told via a representative that her lawyers recommended against talking to the press at the moment. For more information about the raid and the lawsuit, check out TWT‘s story here.

John Solomon, thanks for talking with us. So why did Maryland State Police and DHS go into Audrey Hudson’s house in the first place?

Thanks for your interest in the story! As far as we can tell –from Audrey and the law enforcement records –they had some questions about gun ownership in the house, and wanted to check what weapons were in the house, and a search warrant specified what evidence they were looking for.  In the process of executing that, they seemed to diverge from the guidance or authority of the search warrant, went into Audrey’s office, and grabbed a set of reporting files that specifically dealt with a series of stories that we had at The Washington Times a few years ago that exposed problems within DHS-specifically its Federal Air Marshall Service. At the time, Audrey didn’t even know they had been taken. She didn’t learn till a month later when they began returning her materials that they had held them for a month and, we later learned, went through them and read them. And so what started as a routine law enforcement matter has somehow turned into a First Amendment concern for us.

So you think the raid was a pretense to get access to those documents?

As a reporter, you try never to make presumptions beyond the facts. What we know is that when the Homeland Security agent got to the home, one of the first things he did was say “Are you the same Audrey Hudson who wrote those stories about the Federal Air Marshals?” So whether he figured it out when he got there, whether he knew that in advance, we don’t know. But when she confirmed that she was, that should have immediately kicked in the First Amendment concerns over reporter privileges. If anything, they should have been more sensitive about what they grabbed from the house that wasn’t covered by the warrant. We have no argument with the Maryland State Police or the DHS doing legitimate law enforcement work, but once they knew they were in a reporter’s home, the idea of going and grabbing those files, to us, is offensive. We want to know: Do they have copies? Have they gleaned any information from them? And have they used them in any way to harm sources, or infringe on the First Amendment further then they already have? That’s the purpose of the law suit.

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TWT Says Sayonara to COO

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The Washington Times hasn’t been a hotbed of stability in the last year or five. And on Thursday they said goodbye to their COO, John Martin. Sources tell FishbowlDC he was fired. He packed up and escorted himself out of the building with a box of his belongings. Security was not required to escort him out. Read more

Carlos Dangerously-Named Journos

Anthony Weiner admitted yesterday to using the online alias Carlos Danger to carry on a strange Internet affair with a 22-year-old woman. If you’re anything like us, that got you wondering how Weiner came up with such a great alias. Already having graced the news media by having the last name Weiner, he’s provided another amazing name to fill headlines and Twitter jokes.

But lets face it, sometimes we all need an alias, whether it’s to ghost-write a book or set up a Swedish bank account to hold mounds of embezzled money. And if you haven’t found your inner-Carlos Danger yet, don’t worry, it’s not hard at all. Yesterday afternoon, Chris Kirk of Slate posted a Carlos Danger Name Generator that figures it out for you. We of course had to figure out the alter-egos of the FBDC staff, as well as a few journos around D.C. Enjoy.

Silvestre Sly: Betsy Rothstein, FBDC

José Jeopardy: Peter Ogburn, FBDC

Pascual Death: Justin McLachlin, FBDC

Lorenzo Distress: Austin Price, FBDC

Now see the rest…

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TWT Names New Editorial Page Editor

After Brett Decker quit his job as TWT Editorial Page Editor in November 2012, the paper slid former controversial Editor Wes Pruden into the job. But just temporarily. True to their word, they’ve finally named a new editor to their opinion pages — it’s David Keene. He was appointed Sunday, according to a release distributed this morning. Previous editorial page editors included the now deceased Tony Blankley and Tony Snow.

Most recently, Keene stepped down as president of the National Rifle Association. He is also a former GOP presidential advisor to Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and candidates Bob Dole and Mitt Romney. He was also an aide to former Vice President to Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew.

But for anyone who feared (or hoped) that Pruden might drift back into retirement, it just isn’t happening. “The Times also announced that Editor Emeritus Wesley Pruden, who came out of retirement to reorganize the opinion pages in January, will remain in a full-time capacity directing and producing editorials,” says the release. He will also continue writing his twice-weekly column.

See a few flowery quotes from TWT CEO Larry Beasley (a.k.a. Evil Santa)… Read more

TWT Gets Amnesia, Forgets Editor Already Returned

Whoever writes TWT‘s press releases must be fighting with the others tasked with writing TWT press releases. And if it’s the same person? Better get him or her a hypnotist and fast because memory appears to be a major problem here.

The first line of one of their three releases Monday states, “The Washington Times announced Monday that award-winning investigative journalist John Solomon is returning after a hiatus of more than 3½ years to oversee the newspaper’s content, digital and business strategies.”

Let’s edit this for facts, shall we? Read more

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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