Newsweek has fired its top two editors and one senior reporter, BuzzFeed News has learned.
Bob Roe, the editor-in-chief, and Kenneth Li, the executive editor, were both let go today, along with senior politics writer Celeste Katz.
Josh Keefe, a reporter with the International Business Times, initially had his access to company resources such as the CMS and email removed like the others. But Keefe later said on Twitter he had not been fired, "although that was very clearly the plan." Newsweek senior reporter Josh Saul also had his access to company resources disabled, but he too kept his job.
Both Newsweek and IBT are owned by Newsweek Media Group. This latest turmoil at the company follows a recent raid in its New York offices by the Manhattan District Attorney; BuzzFeed News revealing that NMG's top editor, Dayan Candappa, was fired from a previous job over sexual harassment allegations; and that the International Business Times has been buying traffic and engaging in ad fraud.
In the wake of the above events, the company's chair and finance director both stepped down last week.
Hours after the firings went public, the company announced in an internal staff email that cofounder Jonathan Davis would return as interim Chief Content Officer until the investigation into Candappa is completed, and that Nancy Cooper, the managing editor of IBT, is now acting editor of Newsweek.
"The company will not be commenting any further on these personnel changes at this time," the email, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News, said.
"Newsweek Media Group does not comment on personnel matters," the company said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
A Newsweek staffer told BuzzFeed News the hours of delay between firing Roe and Li and an announcement of the new leadership showed a lack of planning on the part of company executives.
"If you’re going to fire the editor in chief you would think you’d have a staff meeting and say, 'Here's what we did, here's why we did it, and here's how we want to show our commitment to you,'" they said.
Katz, the fired Newsweek reporter, had a byline on the magazine's story about the DA's raid of its offices. She, along with Keefe and Saul, wrote a follow-up story about the company chair and finance director stepping down. Li was overseeing the coverage, and the New York Post reported that Roe was as well.
The Newsweek staffer said the firings now "look like retribution."
Sources told BuzzFeed News that staff in the magazine's New York office initially withheld work in the wake of the firings to wait for more information. "There's no official instruction or organized effort to withhold work, it's just sad, scared people waiting to hear more," said one staffer.
The source also said that staff in New York were told they could go home for the day, though not everyone left.
CNN reported that Newsweek senior writer Matthew Cooper resigned by email after the firings were made. "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 wrote.
He later posted his resignation email on Twitter:
His resignation was followed by that of David Sirota, an investigative reporter for IBT:
This story was updated to reflect the fact that Newsweek senior writer Josh Saul kept his job at the publication. His email account was initially disabled like those belonging to the employees that were fired.