Washington Times

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The Washington Times is a newspaper and web publisher, originally created as a conservative alternative to the Washington Post, and owned by the Unification Church. When it first began to publish in 1982, Washington, D.C. was down to a single major daily newspaper after the Washington Star ceased operations, and, even though there were some questions about ownership and ideology, it clearly filled a niche.

Positioning

In 1985, Arnaud de Borchgrave became its editor. While he had been controversial, he had been a well-known foreign correspondent, for 20 years, at Newsweek. He added considerable credibility, serving until 1991, when he changed his role but remained affiliated with other Unification Church owned news media.

The paper has hired a number of Pulitzer Prize winners. In 2007, staff photographer Mary Calvert was a Pulitzer finalist for feature photography, as was the entire photography staff, for breaking news, in 2003.

Bill Gertz, who has worked for the Times since 1985, is one of the better-sourced national security reporters in Washington. When he writes opinion pieces, they are often "hard-line" on defense issues, but he spares neither major U.S. political party.

Recent restructuring

Newsmax.com has been its online partner, although the Times announced layoffs to, according to president and publisher Jonathan Slevin, to “... continue the Washington Times’ transformation into a 21st century media company and reinforces its mission to provide an independent, alternative voice in the nation’s capital. The company will expand the recently-launched theconservatives.com, subscription-based e-briefings and other new digital information.”

It will expand into radio, but diminish its print presence. Printed copies will be given to "important readers such as government officials", home delivery will be available at a "premium price", and single copies will still be sold by retailers and from dispensers. Staff told the New York Times that up to 40 percent of the staff would be cut. [1]

The paper had hired John Solomon, previously of the Washington Post, as executive editor in February 2008. He added respected reporters, and added two Post senior staffers, Jeff Birnbaum and Matthew Mosk, to The Times.[2]

November 2009 firings

Following the handing of Unification Church authority from Sun Myung Moon to his three sons, three executives, Thomas P. McDevitt (president and publisher), Keith Cooperrider (chief financial officer), and Dong Moon Joo (chairman) were fired on 9 November 2009[3] Executive Editor John Solomon reacted that he was considering resignation, [2] and then did so. The actual announcement of Solomon's resignation, dated 13 November 2009, said it was effective on the 6th, prior to the above firings.[4]

December 2009 cuts

Additional firings were announced on 30 December 2009. Senior personnel affected included overall managing editor Jeffrey Birnbaum, print edition managing editor David Jones and political editor Barbara Slavin.[5]

Continued controversies

Unification Church role

At its 20th anniversary, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the Unification Church, gave a sermon about his concept of its role, which continued some of the debate about objectivity, when he said,
"The Washington Times is responsible to let the American people know about God...The Washington Times will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world."[6]

The former opinion editor, Richard Miniter, has claimed religious discrimination, and filed a formal complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. He told the Associated Press that the "company president "coerced" him into attending a Unification Church event in 2008 that included a mass wedding. He says the company launched a background investigation into him earlier this year after he made a joke about the church to a co-worker."[7]

Miniter told CNN "a lot of fine journalists do work there, and they're in the middle of a tragedy not of their own making. This is a fight within the Unification Church. And the three top executives who were fired were themselves Unification Church members to be replaced by other church members.

This also appears to be a fight between Preston Moon, one of the 13 children of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and his other siblings over control of the North American empire....the fact that the paper has lost money for more than 27 straight years, and losing about $40 million a year. And the church actually doles the money out in weekly amounts in order to keep complete control over the paper."[8]

Anti-gay positions

There has been considerable discussion, in media monitoring, about anti-gay positions of the Times, consistent with social conservative ideas. MediaMatters commented "When The Washington Times announced it would be laying off 40 percent of the staff, reports of the move stated that the paper desired to focus on its "core strengths," which included "cultural coverage based on traditional values." Apparently, that includes the continuity of the paper's relentless anti-gay crusade....Most recently, The Washington Times has been waging an anti-gay war on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, an openly gay former educator..."[9] Jennings has been under considerable attack in other conservative media.

References

  1. Dan Weil (3 December 2009), "Washington Times Cuts Staff", Newsmax
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ben Frumin (9 November 2009), "Washington Times Executive Editor John Solomon Considering Options -- Including Resignation -- After Newsroom Shakeup", TPM
  3. Michael Calderone (9 November 2009), "Shake-up at WashTimes; three executives out", Politico
  4. Jennifer Harper (13 November 2009), "Solomon resigns as TWT editor", Washington Times
  5. Monica Norton (30 December 2009), "Washington Times cuts journalists, sections", Washington Post
  6. Frank Ahrens (23 May 2002), "Moon Speech Raises Old Ghosts as the Times Turns 20", Washington Post
  7. Associated Press (18 November 2009), "Ex-Washington Times Editor Alleges Religious Bias: Former Washington Times opinion editor accuses paper of religious discrimination, harassment", ABC News
  8. "Reliable Sources", CNN, 29 November 2009
  9. Julie Millican (8 December 2009), "So, this is what we're left with at the Washington Times", MediaMatters