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Newly appointed Washington Post editor decides not to take job after backlash, stays in Britain

The Washington Post’s new editor, Robert Winnett, never took up his post: He stepped down on Friday and decided to stay in England, amid yet another shakeup at a news agency where  a reorganization plan  went disastrously wrong.

He had been the subject of several published reports, including  one from the newsroom he had tried to lead  , that questioned whether he was following an ethical compass foreign to American journalists. The Post’s CEO and publisher, Will Lewis, announced Winnett’s decision in a memo to staff and said a recruiting firm would be hired immediately to find a replacement.

The financially struggling Post had announced that Winnett would take over key newsroom functions after the November presidential election, and that it was also establishing a “third newsroom” dedicated to finding new ways to capitalize on its journalism profits.

Three weeks ago, then-executive editor Sally Buzbee said she would step down rather than accept a demotion to lead the revenue-boosting effort. In addition to Winnett’s hiring, former Wall Street Journal editor Matt Murray was hired as his interim replacement and future leader of the “third newsroom.”

Since then, several published reports have raised questions about Lewis and Winnett’s journalistic ethics stemming from their work in England. For example, both men worked together on a series of scoops about British politicians’ extravagant spending fueled by information they had paid a data intelligence firm for, a practice frowned upon by American journalists.

The New York Times wrote that both Winnett and Lewis were implicated in stories that appeared to be based on fraudulently obtained telephone and business records.

It sparked a revolt in the Post newsroom. David Maraniss, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who worked at the paper for four decades, said this week that he knew of no one there who thought the situation with the publisher and the “supposed new editor” could hold up.

“The body is rejecting the transfusion,” Maraniss wrote on Facebook.

Lewis, a former Wall Street Journal publisher and vice chairman of the board of the Associated Press,  started at the Post earlier this year  , hired by billionaire Jeff Bezos to stem a costly readership exodus. The Post reported losing $77 million last year.

In a memo to key staffers earlier this week, Bezos assured them that the paper’s journalistic standards and ethics would not change. “I know you’ve heard this from Will, but I also wanted to speak up directly,” he wrote.

“Of course, it can’t be business as usual at the Post,” Bezos wrote. “The world is changing rapidly, and we must change as a company.”

In his Facebook note, Maraniss said the issue for staff members is integrity, not resistance to change. To that end, it remains to be seen whether Lewis can gain the support of the staff to survive on his own.

“I think the deal is that Will Lewis stays, for now,” Margaret Sullivan, a former Post Media columnist, said in a message on X Friday. “Winnett’s pre-ousing is the sacrifice/compromise. Was his tenure less than a single Scaramucci?”

Lewis said Friday that the recruiting agency and process to replace Winnett would be announced soon. Winnett’s sudden hiring, without any indication of an extensive search, had also angered staff members.

Lewis said the reorganization efforts will continue, albeit belatedly. He said the “third newsroom” will be up and running early next year.

Winnett is staying at the Telegraph in London. The Telegraph’s editor, Chris Evans, told the paper that “he’s a talented guy, and their loss is our gain,” according to the Guardian.


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Abdelkader Achaari

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