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Will Lewis Introduces Himself to The Washington Put up: “We’re Not in a Place That We Need to Be”

The brand new CEO of The Washington Put up confronted a troublesome crowd on Monday—and largely received them over. It was the primary assembly between Will Lewis, a London-born media govt, and Put up staffers, a lot of whom are reeling from final month’s information that the corporate was working on defective monetary projections and because of this would offer buyouts to 240 workers. Lewis, 54, learn the room, and disarmed it with a mixture of self-effacing humor, non-corporate converse, and candor, based on a recording of the assembly obtained by Vainness Truthful. “I’ve had pretty messages from plenty of you, so don’t fear should you’re the one or two individuals who haven’t thanked me, it’s nice,” he mentioned, to laughs. “I hate speaking about myself. That is the one time I’m going to do it. Usually I’m going to do my speaking by you—by your journalism. However I perceive that it’s essential know who I’m, what my values are, what I stand for, and who I help.” Which is the New York Yankees, he added. “Nicely, I simply misplaced the room,” he mentioned in jest.

The meet and greet wasn’t all jokes, nonetheless. “We’re not in a spot that we need to be in and we have to get to that place as quick as we are able to. It’s not going to occur in a single day,” mentioned Lewis. “You’ll discover me very cooperative. I’m not a respecter of hierarchy relating to nice concepts. I feel the very best concepts for our group are going to be buried deep within the firm, with somebody who’s not a senior supervisor, hasn’t ever been listened to, however they are going to have the solutions to what we have to do. We have to discover these concepts,” he mentioned.

Opening the assembly, interim CEO Patty Stonesifer famous that she prioritized three issues in her seek for a brand new CEO, based mostly on surveys and conversations throughout the group: somebody who “liked, lived, and understood the significance of journalism”; who “had not solely a imaginative and prescient for, however a observe document of, executing on an excellent marketing strategy”; and who “was accessible…who understood that the knowledge on this room was a giant a part of what they wanted to listen to, study from, and construct into the place we go ahead.”

All of which Lewis, who rose the enhancing ranks at British newspapers and later grew to become a prime govt on the Wall Road Journal mother or father Dow Jones, highlighted in his introduction. “I used to be a journalist for 20 years. I so want I used to be a journalist nonetheless,” he mentioned. “I’ve requested plenty of folks plenty of tough questions through the years, so you’ll be able to ask me something. Don’t maintain again. Don’t go away right here at this time considering, rattling, I ought to have requested that query.” It was a marked departure from his predecessor, Fred Ryan, a former Reagan administration official who stepped down in August. In a city corridor final yr, Ryan shocked the room with information about layoffs after which refused to take staffers’ questions, saying he didn’t need the assembly to show “right into a grievance session for the Guild.” (Lewis on Monday famous he’s “a giant supporter of the union.”)

As I lately reported, the Put up seems to be at a crossroads, with lingering questions round its long-term enterprise and editorial technique. There’s vital stress on 2024 to extend site visitors and subscriptions, and, amid lingering frustration with govt editor Sally Buzbee and her low-key management type, hope that the brand new CEO will provide a firmer sense of route. However, as Lewis instructed workers Monday, “For those who’re anticipating me to supply a strategic plan at this time, you’ll be disillusioned. It’s not going to occur.” Presumably, as one newsroom worker famous to me, Lewis needed to have introduced some kind of plan to Put up proprietor Jeff Bezos in an effort to get the job. (The Every day Beast first reported a few of Lewis’s feedback to workers).

On Monday, nonetheless, he steered it could be silly to supply a blueprint earlier than even beginning the job—he begins in January—and having a correct go searching. “My plan is to reach and for us to collectively craft an especially thrilling manner ahead. I can odor it. I can really feel it. I do know it. However I acquired to get to know you all to validate some early considering and to listen to your ideas,” he mentioned. What he was keen to supply have been “some indications of what I feel we’re going to be speaking about in additional element,” together with making the Put up “extra accessible to youthful adults” and “dipping into different methods of monetizing our world-class content material.” At present, mentioned Lewis, “we don’t give folks sufficient alternatives to offer us cash for our journalism.”

“I’ll by no means buckle. I’ll by no means yield relating to defending you. We’ll all the time get the story finished,” Lewis mentioned, citing his observe document of “having the ability to get unbiased journalism finished regardless of or along with the possession construction that I’ve labored with.” He was writer of the Journal, he famous, when reporter John Carreyrou revealed the fraud of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes’ blood testing start-up—during which Journal proprietor Rupert Murdoch had personally invested $125 million.

Lewis, whose appointment was first reported by The New York Occasions over the weekend, spent the vast majority of the hour-long assembly taking questions from workers, a few of whom requested if there was any likelihood of reversing the buyouts. “I’m supportive of the actions which might be being taken. They’re painful, however I’m supportive of it, and there’s nothing between me and Patty in any respect on this,” he mentioned. “I don’t begin till January the second, so I feel it’s not acceptable for me to opine about what occurs earlier than that.” Lewis was additionally pressed on expectations that Bezos laid out when he was employed, and if the proprietor set a timeline for profitability. “I feel we’ll all really feel lots higher, significantly with regard to the independence of our journalism, once we’re a self-sustaining firm,” Lewis mentioned. “So I’d wish to get to that as quick as doable. However let’s be very clear about it: we’re not going to do it by slicing, we’re going to do it by rising. So it’ll take a bit longer.” The staffer asking the query pushed again, asking if this was the case, “Why are we slicing proper now?” Lewis once more expressed help for the actions being taken, whereas noting, “It’s not on my watch.”

One other Put up newsroom worker I spoke to praised Lewis for the real manner with which he addressed questions on range and inclusion. “I’m very obsessed with that in any respect types of ranges, not solely as a result of it’s the suitable factor to do, however truly it’s superb for enterprise, as nicely,” mentioned Lewis. “We have to seem like America and that may be a actually necessary factor,” he mentioned, to applause.

The overall consensus from Put up workers I spoke to was that individuals have been charmed by Lewis and his emotional intelligence. (One nationwide safety correspondent acknowledged as a lot through the assembly. “I feel we’re all actually excited by your enthusiasm. I feel we’re like most Individuals who’re charmed by the accent,” they laughed. “That’s all we acquired left—severely,” Lewis replied.) However allure will solely get you to date in a newsroom filled with dejected journalists, one which will probably be ready eagerly to listen to a selected enterprise technique for the long run when he begins in January.