August 31, 2022

The media story making the rounds on Tuesday was one of the biggest newspapers in the world writing about one of the other biggest newspapers in the world.

In this case, it was The New York Times writing about The Washington Post, and the story painted a picture that wasn’t all that rosy. The headline on the story by the Times’ Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson: “Frustrations Mount at Washington Post as Its Business Struggles.”

While there were plenty of interesting nuggets in the piece, the most eye-raising was the Times claiming the Post is on track to lose money in 2022 after years of profitability. Mullin and Robertson wrote, “The Post now has fewer than the three million paying digital subscribers it had hailed internally near the end of 2020, according to several people at the organization. Digital ad revenue generated by The Post fell to roughly $70 million during the first half of the year, about 15 percent lower than in the first half of 2021, according to an internal financial document reviewed by The New York Times.”

The Times story also reported that Post publisher and chief executive Fred Ryan has “floated with newsroom leaders the possibility of cutting 100 positions.” The Times wrote, “The cuts, if they happen, could come through hiring freezes for open jobs or other ways. The newsroom now has about 1,000 people.”

However, a spokesperson for the Post told Mullin and Robertson that the news organization was not reducing head count and would be adding steadily to the newsroom and “exploring positions that should be repurposed to serve a larger, national and global audience.” The Times wrote, “(The spokesperson) said the document showing ad revenue declines depicted an incomplete picture of The Post’s business, but she declined to detail how.”

There were a few other notable tidbits, including:

  • Ryan has been focused on productivity and how often employees are in the office. The Post recently put out a memo reminding employees, with some exceptions, that they were expected to be in the office at least three days a week.
  • Post executives have had “extensive internal talks” about whether or not to attempt to buy other news organizations. The outlets discussed included The Associated Press, The Economist and The Guardian.
  • And, the Times, wrote, “Mr. Ryan’s decision to scrap some of the newspaper’s brand marketing campaigns has been another source of tension among executives at The Post.”

To be clear, and this is me talking here, the Post remains among the most impressive and accomplished news organizations in the world. Earlier this year, it won the top prize in journalism — the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service — for its coverage of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. But hearing that a U.S. newspaper, even one as outstanding as the Post, is seeing less success than it used to isn’t surprising either.

The Times wrote, “As the breakneck news pace of the Trump administration faded away, readers have turned elsewhere, and the paper’s push to expand beyond Beltway coverage hasn’t compensated for the loss.”

Meanwhile, check out this tweet from Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce, who is also the president of the Media Guild of the West: “Our democracy is teetering on the brink, but the paper of record in our capitol city, which is owned by one of the richest human beings to ever exist, is talking about cutting newsroom jobs because it’s not hitting its marks. Give me a break.”

Going after big names

Lachlan Cartwright had a good scoop in The Daily Beast’s Confider newsletter. Cartwright reports that Semafor — the global media company headed up by Ben Smith and Justin Smith (no relation) — is about to announce some major hires. It will include Washington Post national political correspondent Dave Weigel.

Cartwright wrote that Weigel “has made it known to friends he wants out of the D.C. paper after being suspended earlier this year for retweeting a sexist joke.”

For those who might have forgotten, Weigel retweeted a sexist joke in June. He deleted the retweet and apologized, and was suspended for one month without pay. He returned in July and his byline has appeared regularly in the Post since then.

Cartwright reports Weigel would join Semafor after the midterm elections. Neither Semafor nor Weigel responded to The Daily Beast for comments.

The Daily Beast previously reported that Semafor went after star New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and Axios’ Jonathan Swan, but both are expected to remain where they are.

Ben Smith, the former New York Times media columnist, and Justin Smith, the former Bloomberg Media CEO, announced earlier this year that they would launch a global media company. Semafor is expected to officially start publishing this fall.

Meet the speculation

The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Cartwright had another talker this week: “NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ Shakeup Puts Chuck Todd in Jeopardy.”

“Meet the Press” recently named a new executive producer in David P. Gelles, who comes over from CNN. Cartwright wrote, “Gelles’ first order of business, multiple sources said, is deciding what to do about Chuck Todd, who despite recently signing a two-year extension, as Confider has learned, has baffled many at NBC with how long he’s remained atop the struggling show.”

Cartwright wrote that Kristen Welker might start hosting more in the coming months and could ultimately end up as the next moderator of the venerable Sunday morning show.

I’ll catch plenty of grief for what I’m about to say, but I’m a Chuck Todd fan, and I believe he does a good job as host of “MTP.” He’s a punching bag among the Sunday morning Twitter mob, which is easily frustrated by nonresponsive responses by the many of the politicians who appear on his show. Todd is often criticized for the remarks made by guests, and then not properly following up or pushing back hard enough. When you have a guest on for only six or seven minutes, the whole time cannot be spent following up on one comment. Todd will try to pin down an answer or call out misleading statements, but eventually he must move on to other topics — and that is often the source of viewers’ irritations.

Asking questions

Fox News’ Sean Hannity in 2018. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

As you probably know, Dominion Voting Systems has a $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News over allegations that the network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election damaged Dominion’s reputation.

The Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner and Jeremy Barr report that Dominion lawyers last week questioned Fox News on-air personalities Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro and that Sean Hannity and former Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs were scheduled for depositions on Tuesday.

The Post story also said, “But Dominion has also deposed former and current Fox personnel who never subscribed to such claims — including longtime news anchor Shepard Smith, who left Fox nearly three years ago and now works for CNBC, as well as behind-the-scenes players like producers and bookers — in what appears to be an effort to probe the internal culture and reporting practices of the highest-rated cable news network.”

In a statement, Fox News said, “We are confident we will prevail as freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be protected, in addition to the damages claims being outrageous, unsupported and not rooted in sound financial analysis, serving as nothing more than a flagrant attempt to deter our journalists from doing their jobs.”

Dominion is claiming that some of Fox News’ on-air personalities falsely claimed that the company helped rig the election against Donald Trump and often invited guests on the air who made false claims. The Post wrote, “In its suit, Dominion argues that Fox management ‘cynically exploited’ the wild claims of fraud floated by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell in a bid to win back … viewers.”

But lawyer Dan Webb, a member of Fox’s defense team, said the network was merely reporting on claims made by Trump and his allies.

More depositions could be coming, including on-air personality Maria Bartiromo and Fox Corp. chief executive Lachlan Murdoch and chairman Rupert Murdoch.

The Post notes that the two sides could settle out of court, likely for far less than the $1.6 billion that Dominion is seeking. But neither Dominion nor Fox has indicated they are interested in settling. If it goes to trial, it likely would take place next April.

After Gannett layoffs, Courier-Journal journalists unionize

For this item, I turn it over to my Poynter colleague, Angela Fu.

Journalists at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, announced Tuesday they are unionizing with the NewsGuild.

The news comes just weeks after parent company Gannett laid off dozens of journalists across the country, including at least one reporter at The Courier-Journal. The vast majority of the layoffs that Poynter has tracked so far have impacted nonunion newsrooms and staff.

In a tweet announcing the union drive, the Courier Journal Guild cited layoffs as one of the reasons they are organizing, along with buyouts, unpaid furloughs and the closing of their local printing press. The paper has lost 34 staff in the last two years, according to the guild, which represents roughly 35 editorial employees.

Asked if Gannett would voluntarily recognize the union, labor relations counsel Amy Garrard wrote in an emailed statement that the company “strongly supports the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) election process and has always participated in that process fairly and in good faith. Central to that process is a democratic election in which every employee’s voice is heard.”

If the Courier-Journal staff wins their NLRB election, they can start contract negotiations with the company. Their demands include fair and equitable salaries, a new system of pay raises and the elimination of the paywall on stories important to the public’s interest.

The Courier-Journal is one of more than a dozen Gannett newsrooms that have launched union drives in recent years. The NewsGuild now represents roughly 1,500 workers across more than 50 Gannett-owned properties.

Media tidbits

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

More resources for journalists

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

More News

Back to News