Chaos at Newsweek: Top editors suddenly out

Employees at Newsweek have been told that editor-in-chief Bob Roe and executive editor Ken Li have been fired, source...

Posted: Feb. 5, 2018 1:06 PM
Updated: Feb. 6, 2018 11:24 AM

Employees at Newsweek have been told that editor-in-chief Bob Roe and executive editor Ken Li have been fired, sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

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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 its parent company, Newsweek Media Group, was also let go, the sources said.

Katz declined to comment to CNN but tweeted on Monday afternoon, "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. I'll sleep well tonight... and I'm looking for a job!"

Staff in Newsweek's New York offices were told they could stop working and go home for the day on Monday afternoon, multiple sources said.

"Can confirm I was fired. I know nothing else. Can say nothing else yet," Roe told CNN in an email.

Li could not be reached for comment, though he tweeted, "What a day to leave my charger at home."

A spokesman for Newsweek said the company would not have any comment on personnel matters.

The news comes during a turbulent time for the magazine. 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.

Last month the Manhattan District Attorney's office raided the company's offices, taking several servers. Newsweek itself, in a story co-written by Katz and Josh Saul, reported that the raid was part of a long-running investigation into the company's finances.

Katz, Saul and IBT reporter Josh Keefe had all contributed to articles about the turbulence at Newsweek in recent weeks, including the resignations of Uzac and Kim. Katz had also reported on the company's chief content officer, Dayan Candappa, who was placed on leave following a BuzzFeed report into sexual harassment allegations that, BuzzFeed said, had led to Candappa's departure from Reuters. Newsweek Media Group subsequently hired an outside law firm to conduct an internal investigation.

Multiple sources said rumors were swirling in the newsroom that Saul and Keefe had also been fired, and other media outlets reported that they had been. But a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN that while Keefe had his email account deactivated on Monday and was told to meet with human resources, he was ultimately saved by an editor who stepped in to prevent his firing. Saul, the same source said, is on vacation and thus far has not been told that he's been fired.

A Newsweek spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about Keefe and Saul.

The New York Post, citing a source close to the company, reported last month that the Manhattan DA's probe is focused on the financial connection between former Newsweek Media Group executives and a Christian college, Olivet University. Olivet said in a statement last month that it is "inaccurate" to say there is a connection between the raid and the university. Uzac, Kim and other Newsweek Media Group executives have direct ties to the university.

Uzac co-founded International Business Times, which in 2013 bought Newsweek. In 2017 the company was rebranded as Newsweek Media Group. Uzac's IBT co-founder, Jonathan Davis, is married to the president of Olivet.

Multiple sources said staffers at Newsweek are worried for their jobs and have started to reach out to their networks about other employment possibilities. Some were drinking in the office. Katz received a round of applause as she was escorted out of the newsroom, sources said.

Senior writer Matthew Cooper tendered his resignation on Monday as a result of the chaos, saying in a resignation letter obtained by CNN that he has never "seen more reckless leadership."

"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 said in the letter.

In an internal staff memo obtained by CNN, Newsweek announced that International Business Times Editor Nancy Cooper will take over as acting editor of Newsweek. The company also announced that Davis is returning to a day-to-day role at the company, becoming interim chief content officer while Candappa is on leave. The memo also said, "The company will not be commenting any further on these personnel changes at this time."

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