Chaos roiled the Newsweek offices Monday with the firings of the editor in chief, his deputy and at least one of the reporters who had been working on stories critical of the newsmagazine’s parent company.
Johnathan Davis, the co-founder of Newsweek Media Group, ordered the firing of top editor Bob Roe, Roe’s deputy editor Ken Li and reporter Celeste Katz, a source said.
Two other reporters — Josh Saul and Josh Keefe — saw their company email accounts disabled. Keefe ultimately kept his job. Saul’s status was unclear.
Katz, Saul and Keefe had been writing about an ongoing investigation of the company by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Their stories said it was a financial fraud investigation that started about a year and a half ago.
In addition to that investigation, Newsweek placed Chief Content Officer Dayan Candappa on leave in recent weeks after allegations that he repeatedly sexually harassed a woman while he was a top official at Reuters. The company hired a law firm to investigate Candappa’s conduct. The three reporters had written stories about that scandal as well.
Roe and Li were closely involved in the editing of those stories, the source said.
Keefe, a reporter for Newsweek’s sister publication the International Business Times, still has his job — but before his colleagues’ firings became national news, his company email was deactivated and he was scheduled to meet with a human resources representative, another source said. “I have not been fired, although that was very clearly the plan,” Keefe said on Twitter.
A third source said Roe and Li told the Newsweek staff last week that they would protect Katz and Saul, and promised to quit if the reporters were fired. Staffers had specifically asked Roe and Li if Katz and Saul were in danger of losing their jobs because of the coverage.
On Monday, editors told staffers not to work until the company briefs them on what happened. The staff was then sent home for the day.
Also on Monday, staffers at the International Business Times were not paid as expected.
"The entire staff is angry, frustrated and confused,” the first source said.
Matthew Cooper, Newsweek’s political editor, resigned in protest. “I’ve never seen more reckless leadership,” he said in a letter to Newsweek Media Group’s chief executive, Dev Pragad, that he posted on Twitter. “The situation has become untenable.”
A memo to staffers Monday said that Nancy Cooper, editor of the International Business Times, is serving as Newsweek’s acting editor and that Davis, the co-founder, has been named Newsweek Media Group’s interim chief content officer pending the outcome of the investigation into the allegations against Candappa.
When asked about Monday's firings, the company said it does not comment on personnel matters.
Last Wednesday, Etienne Uzac and Marion Kim resigned from their roles as chairman and finance director at Newsweek Media Group. Their resignations came less than two weeks after sources told the New York Daily News that the district attorney’s Major Economic Crimes bureau was investigating Uzac.
The district attorney’s investigators raided the Newsweek offices Jan. 18 and took pictures of the company’s computer equipment in the server room. “They seemed interested in where and when the company got the servers,” a source said at the time.