Monday started with layoffs at weekly magazine Newsweek. Johnathan Davis, the co-founder of Newsweek Media Group, ordered the firing of editor Bob Roe; his deputy editor, Ken Li; and reporter Celeste Katz–all involved in covering the company’s legal troubles. Two other reporters, Josh Saul of Newsweek and Josh Keefe of the International Business Times, both lost access to their e-mail accounts on Monday. Keefe’s job is safe at this time (as far as he knows), but Saul’s status is not yet clear.
I have not been fired, although that was very clearly the plan.
— Josh Keefe (@thejoshkeefe) February 5, 2018
After the police raid on the orders of the Manhattan district attorney’s office on January 18, a group of Newsweek reporters were assigned to look into their own company. One of the news department employees reported that company executives critically examined all related content before publication.
Chief content officer (CCO) Dayan Candappa is said to have acted as a middle-man between the reporters and the top executives, protecting the former. However, Candappa was recently placed on leave by the company after he was accused of committing multiple acts of sexual harassment while working at Reuters–a scandal the Newsweek reporters above worked on as well, with Roe and Li involved in editing these stories.
Newsweek senior political editor Matthew Cooper resigned in protest against the firing of the reporters and editors. He posted a letter to chief executive officer Dev Pragad on Twitter, saying that he has “never seen more reckless leadership” in his over-30-year career.
“The coup de grace comes at the end of a string of scandals and missteps during your tenure,” he said. “Leaving aside the police raid and the harassment scandal, 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 fail.”
— Matthew Cooper (@mattizcoop) February 5, 2018
Legal and Other Issues Also Troubling the Company
Newsweek was taken over by IBT Media, Inc., the publisher of the International Business Times, in 2013. It was rebranded as the Newsweek Media Group in 2017. Since then, Newsweek layoffs have occurred a couple of times, though without the controversy of this current batch.
Newsweek is currently accused of committing financial fraud, the raid by the district attorney’s office having been performed to locate evidence. One source claimed authorities appeared to be most interested in the company’s servers, namely in regards to the loan taken out to buy them. BuzzFeed would later add fuel to the fire, reporting first on Candappa’s sexual harassment accusations, and then on another investigation claiming that the company had used fraudulent online traffic practices to win a moneymaking ad campaign.
The recent layoffs at Newsweek were entirely different from those occurring due to digitalization. Staff at Newsweek have been described as, “angry, frustrated and confused,” according to one source. The company itself has declined to comment.
“Newsweek Fires Editors and Reporter Who Investigated the Company,” The New York Times, February 5, 2018.
“Newsweek fires editor in chief, deputy editor and 3 reporters in possible retaliation for negative coverage,” NY Daily News, February 5, 2018.
“Newsweek fires top editor, deputy editor and at least one reporter after unflattering stories,” Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2018.