Newsweek, whose iconic history as a news organization has spanned eight decades, is making headlines of a different sort this week: Its top editors have been fired amid a maelstrom of controversy in the newsroom.
Some of its staffers are wondering whether the magazine will be able to survive. Writers and editors at the publication’s New York offices were told they could go home for the day on Monday afternoon, although they were notified that a new editor would be in place Tuesday.
Former Editor-in-Chief Bob Roe confirmed his firing in an email to CNN, saying, “Can confirm I was fired. I know nothing else. Can say nothing else yet.” Executive Editor Ken Li was also fired, CNN reported.
In a memo to staff on Monday afternoon, Newsweek said the company would not comment on the staff changes, but confirmed that Roe and Li were “leaving the business,” the Daily Beast reported.
Others abruptly resigned.
“I’m resigning from Newsweek at the end of business today, although perhaps that’s moot since the staff has been sent home and the magazine, for all we know, doesn’t exist,” wrote Matthew Cooper, Newsweek’s political editor.
Also fired was a reporter, Celeste Katz, who had written articles about financial issues at the magazine as well as an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office into Newsweek’s parent company, Newsweek Media Group.
“My warmest thanks to the brave Newsweek editors and colleagues who supported and shared in my work — especially our recent, difficult stories about the magazine itself — before my dismissal today,” Katz tweeted Monday afternoon. “I’ll sleep well tonight . . . and I’m looking for a job! “
Just last week the co-owner and chairman of Newsweek Media Group, Etienne Uzac, and his wife Marion Kim, who acted as the company’s finance director, both stepped down.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office raided the company’s offices last month. Katz reported that the raid was part of a long-running investigation into the company’s finances.
Last week, BuzzFeed News reported that the company engaged in “fraudulent online traffic practices” to help secure an online ad buy from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The publisher of Newsweek and the International Business Times bought fake audience traffic in order to fulfill a large government advertising campaign, consulting firm Social Puncher alleged.
Staffers tweeted Monday that the issue boils down to reckless management and seeking web clicks at the expense of integrity.
“Leaving aside the police raid and harassment scandal — a dependent clause I never thought I would write — it’s the installation of editors, not Li and Roe, who recklessly sought clicks at the expense of accuracy, retweets over fairness, that leaves me most despondent not only for Newsweek but for other publications that don’t heed the lessons of this publication’s fall,” Cooper wrote in announcing his resignation.
Newsweek, founded in 1933, was owned for nearly 50 years by the Washington Post Company before being sold to audio pioneer Sidney Harman in 2010 for $1 and assumption of the magazine’s burgeoning liabilities.
The magazine ceased print publication at the end of 2012 and transitioned itself to digital format. IBT Media, the precedessor of Newsweek Media Group, bought the publication in August 2013.
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