Last month's cuts at the Washington Times were much worse than first reported, as the ownership slashed the editorial staff from about 160 to 60 and hit the business and support staff by even more, according to remaining staffers. And now, as the conservative paper struggles for a new business and editorial model, the ownership is giving up the lavish headquarters building on New York Avenue in northeastern D.C.
At a meeting with the remaining employees yesterday, according to some who attended, Publisher Jonathan Slevin said that the paper, founded in 1982 by Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon, will continue to receive a subsidy, a hint some took as a good sign that the church was not planning to shutter the paper.
But the paper is planning to move out of its longtime headquarters, notable for its huge two-story open newsroom encircled on the second floor by a balcony of marble and brass. Management said the plan is to leave by spring. It hasn't decided where to go, though Slevin said he hoped it would be near a Metrorail station. The building is on the edge of Washington near Maryland, but insiders said Northern Virginia is an option, as is Maryland.
The paper, reportedly in the middle of a tug of war between Moon and his son, slashed its editorial staff last month, eliminating the sports and metro section as it bid to become more of a politically focused paper. Early reports said that 40 percent of the workforce was cut. But insiders now say that 62 percent of the approximately 160 editorial employees were let go and up to 70 percent of the business and support staff. At the meeting yesterday, management suggested that there would be no more cuts.
Managers promised to install a new editor by the end of the month, though they gave no indication of who was being considered. Senior staffers said the new editor is likely to be new to the Times. They also said that the paper's new direction won't be settled on until an editor is chosen.
Paul Bedard was the Washington Times White House correspondent from 1988 to 1998.