WaPo drama continues, new editor out

It’s the latest upheaval in a reorganization plan that has gone wrong

The Washington Post’s new editor, Robert Winnett, withdrew Friday and decided to stay in England in the latest drama at the newspaper. (Gerald Herbert / AP Photo)

NEW YORK — The Washington Post’s new editor, Robert Winnett, never returned to his job. He withdrew Friday and decided to stay in England in another upheaval at a news outlet where a reorganization plan had gone disastrously wrong.

He had been the subject of several published reports — including one in the newsroom he sought to lead — questioning whether he followed an ethical and moral compass foreign to American journalists. The Post’s CEO and publisher, Will Lewis, announced Winnett’s decision in a note to staff and said a recruitment firm would be immediately hired to search for a new replacement.


The financially struggling Post had announced that Winnett would take over as editor of the core newsroom functions after the November presidential election. It was also setting up a “third newsroom” devoted to finding new and inventive ways for its journalism to make more money.

Three weeks ago, then-executive editor Sally Buzbee said she would quit rather than take a demotion to head this revenue-enhancement effort. In addition to Winnett’s hiring, former Wall Street Journal editor Matt Murray was brought on as her interim replacement and future leader of the “third newsroom.”

Since then, several published reports have raised questions about Lewis and Winnett’s journalistic ethics stemming from their work in England. For example, both men worked together in a series of scoops about extravagant spending activity by British politicians fueled by information they paid a data information company for — a practice frowned upon by American journalists.

The New York Times wrote that both Winnett and Lewis were also involved in stories that appeared to be based on fraudulently obtained phone and business records.

It sparked a newsroom revolt at The Washington Post. David Maraniss, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who has worked at the newspaper for more than four decades, said this week he did not know anyone there who thought the situation with the publisher and “supposed new editor” could stand.

“The body is rejecting the transfusion,” Maraniss wrote in a Facebook post.

Lewis, a former Wall Street Journal publisher and vice chairman of The Associated Press’ board of directors, started at The Post earlier this year, hired by billionaire owner Jeff Bezos to stem a costly exodus of readers. The Post had said it had lost around $77 million last year.

In a memo to key staff members earlier this week, Bezos assured them that journalistic standards and ethics at the newspaper would not change. “I know you’ve already heard this from Will, but I wanted to also weigh in directly,” he wrote.

“To be sure, it can’t be business as usual at The Post,” Bezos wrote. “The world is evolving rapidly, and we need to change as a business.”