Two of Newsweek’s top editors – editor in chief Bob Roe and executive editor Kenneth Li – were abruptly fired from the company on Monday, along with reporter Celeste Katz.
The decision caused chaos among the newsroom’s remaining employees,who suspected the firings had a direct connection to something everyone in the newsroom would have known: Katz, Roe, and Li were among a team of reporters and editors who were pursuing an investigative piece into Newsweek’s parent company, the Newsweek Media Group. The company publishes Newsweek, the International Business Times and a handful of other websites.
Newsweek declined to comment on “personnel matters” to The Washington Post, but at least one person familiar with the matter said that internally, the pieces were easy to put together: “These reporters and editors had launched an investigation,” the
person said, “and now they’re no longer there.”
According to an internal memo obtained by CNN and HuffPost, International Business Times managing editor Nancy Cooper will serve as acting editor of Newsweek. The memo also confirms that Roe and Li were “leaving the business.”
Matthew Cooper, a senior writer at Newsweek, resigned from the company in protest of the firings.
In an open letter to Newsweek Media Group chief executive Dev Pragad, Cooper speculated that his resignation might be “moot,” since “the staff has been sent home and the magazine, for all we know, doesn’t exist.”
Cooper called the firings a “disgrace,” writing that in his 30-year tenure as a journalist, “I’ve never seen more reckless leadership.”
The firings were just the latest signs of trouble at Newsweek. Before she was fired, Katz was a byline on many of the magazine’s stories about what was going on at its own parent company.
Over the past month, Katz had covered the Manhattan district attorney’s raid on Newsweek’s offices, reporting that the raid was part of a months-long investigation into the Newsweek Media Group’s finances. She also covered the news that Dayan
Candappa, Newsweek’s chief content officer, would take a leave of absence after BuzzFeed reported that he was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint at a previous job. Her most recent byline was on a story about the resignations of Etienne Uzac
and his wife, Marion Kim. Uzac, who founded the company that became Newsweek Media Group, stepped down as chairman; Kim was the finance director.
Katz confirmed that she had been let go from the company in a tweet: “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!”
Roe declined to comment to CNN, beyond confirming that he was fired. Li tweeted on Monday afternoon: “What a day to leave my charger at home.”
Meanwhile, those who knew the newsroom cultures at Newsweek and International Business Times before the most recent round of turmoil said that little surprised them about the firings.
“Pressure on newsroom staff to avoid commenting on IBT as a company reflects my experience there,” an IBT employee said on Monday, adding that in their experience, employees were “encouraged not to discuss IBT’s financial situation.”
“I am not surprised by anything that happened today, and I just wish people had done the digging and reported on this story sooner,” another former Newsweek employee, who left the company last year, said. “I feel very sad for the entire publication,
and for the people who are still there.”
“After I was let go, I received several emails from people who had offers to work there. I told them it would be a terrible idea to take the job, that it would ruin their lives.” The former employee described their last months at Newsweek as a
traffic-driven, “permanent culture of fear” that led them to worry that they’d be fired at any time.