Two top editors and an undetermined number of reporters from Newsweek and the International Business Times were abruptly fired without explanation on Monday. Editor-in-chief Bob Roe and executive news director Ken Li were among those who were fired, according to an internal staff memo obtained by The Outline. The New York Daily News reported that senior reporters Celeste Katz and Josh Saul were also fired, as well as International Business Times reporter Josh Keefe. The Outline has confirmed that Keefe was not actually fired. Both publications are owned by Newsweek Media Group, which reportedly has close ties to a Christian sect referred to as “the Community.”
Newsweek’s New York headquarters were raided by the Manhattan District Attorneys office on January 18. Katz and Saul initially reported on the raid for Newsweek and found that it was part of a long-running investigation into the company’s murky finances. In 2013, Mother Jones reported that IBT Media, which had recently purchased Newsweek, had ties to Olivet University, a Christian college in California that was part of a sect referred to as “the Community.” A week after Newsweek’s office was raided in January, Katz, Saul, and Keefe reported that Olivet University denied having any role in the ongoing investigation into Newsweek Media Group’s finances. Several Newsweek Media Group staffers have speculated that Monday’s firings were a form of retaliation against the editors and reporters who pursued the investigation into the company’s finances.
“In a newsroom full of people, those are the employees who ended up getting fired,” one source with knowledge of the situation told The Outline. (The Outline spoke with four Newsweek Media Group employees, all of whom who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from their employer.)
“The top brass are clearly terrified of people discovering something they did — possibly a financial issue involving their Christian cult — and were willing to conspicuously fire the very reporters and top editors who dared look into their shady dealings,” one Newsweek Media Group staffer told The Outline. “There has been zero explanation about anything,” that employee added. “Our editors have had meetings and they say they know nothing.”
“Nobody is working. I’m pretty sure people are going out to buy beer and bring it back,” another source said.
HuffPost reported that Katz received a standing ovation as she was escorted out of the offices on Monday afternoon. Newsweek politics editor Matthew Cooper resigned on Monday and posted his resignation letter, addressed to Newsweek Media Group CEO Dev Pragad, on Facebook. “While I haven’t agreed with Bob Roe and Ken Li during their tenures leading the magazine, their efforts to pursue the scandals at Newsweek were admirable,” Cooper wrote. “This coup d’grace comes at the end of a string of scandals and missteps during your tenure. Leaving aside the police raid and harassment scandal — a dependent clause I never thought I would write — 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 despondent not only for Newsweek but for other publications that don’t heed the lessons of this publication’s fall.”
Etienne Uzac, formerly the co-owner and chairman of Newsweek Media Group, resigned from his position last week. Marion Kim, Uzac’s wife and the company’s former finance director, also resigned. But sources close to the situation told The Outline that Kim was back in the office on Monday, as was the company’s former chief operations officer Jonathan Davis, who was ousted from the company in 2016. “No one’s heard or seen from this guy for over a year. Suddenly he shows up in the newsroom, standing with [CEO Dev Pragad], addressing employees,” said one source.
Around 4 p.m., employees received an internal memo announcing Roe and Li’s departure. The memo also said that Davis would be returning to his former position of COO while the company investigated sexual harassment allegations against Dayan Candappa, the company’s former COO who was laid off last week. Katz had previously reported reported on Candappa’s departure for Newsweek.
Update 02/05/2018 6:25PM:The Outline has confirmed that IBT reporter Josh Keefe was not fired.