Washington Post audience cut in half, paper losing millions every year, staff demand more diversity in response: report

One reporter asked Lewis whether "any women or people or color were interviewed and seriously considered for either of these positions."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
The Washington Post is in in trouble. According to a new report out from Vanity Fair, the weekend kerfuffle that saw the departure of Sally Buzbee as executive editor was only compounded on Monday when staff gathered for a meeting only to find that she'd been replaced by two white men. Buzbee had been leading the paper since 2021.

The Post's CEO and publisher Will Lewis told staff that it was time to take "decisive, urgent, action to set us on a different path." One reporter asked Lewis whether "any women or people or color were interviewed and seriously considered for either of these positions." That question, Vanity Fair writes, elicited applause. Buzbee was the first woman executive editor at the Post.

Others questioned why the new interim executive editor Matt Murray was brought on board when that created a scenario where, as one reporter put it, "we now have four white men running three newsrooms." Murray, former editor-in-cheif at the Wall Street Journal, will see the paper through the presidential election and will then be replaced by Robert Winnett, deputy editor of the Telegraph Media Group. Murray will lead the Lewis' third newsroom concept once the presidential election is over. Murray, Winnett and David Shipley, who helms the opinions section, will each report to Lewis.

Lewis didn't just replace Buzbee, but has determined that the stories progressive paper will have three newsrooms, news, opinion, and a new section that Lewis described as a third newsroom. Per a Sunday memo announcing Buzbee's departure obtained by Vanity Fair, Lewis said that third newsroom will have a separate mission. "The aim is to give the millions of Americans—who still feel traditional news is not for them but still want to be kept informed—compelling, exciting and accurate news where they are and in the style that they want."

Lewis also said that the new, third newsroom would lean into video storytelling, would use AI and have different subscriber models. Previously, he'd told staff "We highlighted the need to move away from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach in the news media industry and focus on creating news for a broader range of readers and customers."

Staffers apparently weren't happy. They wanted things to stay how they were, with diversity and social justice at the core of the newsroom's operation. "Don't we need brilliant social journalists and service journalists as embedded in our core product to make sure that people are actually reading the thing that's our at the center of the mission of the Washington Post?"

But apparently that's just not happening and staying on the current course would only lead to more dead ends. Per Lewis: You haven't done it. I've listened to the platitudes. Honestly, it's just not happening."

Per the Post, "Like most news organizations, the Post has lost readers — a decline more acute because the Washington-based outlet boomed with the interest in politics during the Trump administration. The Post's website had 101 million unique visitors a month in 2020, and had dropped to 50 million at the end of 2023." The paper is losing money, losing readers, and Lewis is willing to forego the diversity and social justice demands of his reporters. 

The changes show "that Will Lewis is working out of a sense of crisis and urgency," said retired Post news man Paul Farhi. "He’s only been there five months and he’s making gigantic changes to the newsroom."

At the start of the new year, the Post implemented forced buyouts in an effort to reduce staff after a bitter strike. About 240 staffers took the buyouts and aided the Post in not having to implement layoffs. Layoffs were implemented in early 2023.

In response to Buzbee's exit, staffers took to X to remark upon the change and their feelings about it. Reporter Leila Barghouty spoke about how Buzbee treated her as a "Palestinian journalist."

Video games reporter Gene Park spoke about how much he valued Buzbee as a boss who made sure he was taken care of" when he was sick and made sure he felt "like an important member of a world-class newsroom."

The Washington Post won three Pulitzer Prizes just last month.
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