How Newsweek Collapsed - 2018-02-23
In fall 2017, a high-ranking editor at Newsweek was fired four days after filing a grievance to the magazine's human resources department, complaining of gender discrimination and bullying, and proposing an agreement to leave the company. Her termination letter, which Slate viewed, did not mention the HR complaints. Instead, it laid out a laundry list of performance and conduct concerns.
Sources familiar with her dismissal differ on its legitimacy, but some of the language from her termination letter is striking in light of what has transpired at the magazine since. Her alleged sins included undermining the company's attempt to enforce aggressive page-view quotas for reporters, insufficient commitment to search engine optimization, and rejecting story proposals for being "not Newsweek." (At most publications, shooting down story ideas that don't fit the editorial ethos is an essential part of editors' jobs.) The letter also faulted her for making an "inflammatory allegation" in a conference call with other top editors. Her inflammatory allegation, according to the termination letter: that "the company had real problem(s) of morale and credibility."
Just a few months later, that assessment reads as a dramatic understatement. Newsweek is coming apart at the seams. On Feb. 5, the magazine fired three of its top journalists, including the editor in chief, who had been investigating the financial dealings of its parent company, Newsweek Media Group, in the wake of a surprise raid of its offices by investigators for the Manhattan district attorney. Those firings touched off a cascade of public resignations and recriminations at the once-proud publication, leaving its management jumbled and its newsroom gutted. Amid the turmoil, the magazine on Feb. 9 announced after an outside investigation that it was reinstating a top editor it had suspended just weeks earlier over sexual harassment allegations at his previous employer. That prompted a fresh exodus of female staffers.