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Washington Post’s New Leader, One Year In: Mean Tweets, Internal Battles, Finding Direction

Some staffers thought Buzbee’s tactic was working. Until it wasn’t.

A yr into her tenure, Buzbee’s efforts at making a extra inclusive newsroom have been stymied by an setting nonetheless reeling from years-old wounds over social media and editorial battles and looking for its ft after a renewed sense of editorial objective within the Trump period.

She’s misplaced outstanding employees and, like many different nationwide publications, struggled with a major decline in readership following the top of the Trump presidency. The Post has skilled a slowdown in subscriptions, in response to inside emails seen by staffers. Morale has ebbed to a low. In conversations with greater than a dozen staffers granted anonymity to talk freely about newsroom dynamics, workers described the occasions of earlier this month — wherein a number of outstanding reporters accused one another of making hostile work environments and one reporter was fired — as “mayhem” and “chaos.”

“What are the wins under Sally Buzbee?” requested one of many Post staffers. “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Her struggles to regular the newsroom not solely replicate the difficulties of an outsider becoming a member of a well-established establishment but in addition illustrate the hurdles an editorial chief faces in overseeing a up to date newsroom immersed by social media and altering social norms.

The Post has greater than 1,000 newsroom staffers across the globe, and almost as many views on Buzbee’s tenure. But conversations with a lot of them uncovered some widespread threads.

Buzbee has earned plaudits contained in the Post for being extra accessible than her storied predecessor, Marty Baron. The Post grew in measurement and affect underneath his watch, with the assistance of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who purchased the paper in 2015 and infused it with money.

Baron was usually revered by newsroom workers, however his old-school, top-down administration type at instances annoyed a few of the youthful employees, resulting in public clashes with prominent reporters. Baron declined to remark for this story.

Buzbee has taken a special method, leaning into conversations with editors and increasing the group’s management to incorporate extra various viewpoints. But some staffers have been much less sure about Buzbee’s imaginative and prescient for the paper.

She was chosen for the job by Post writer and CEO Fred Ryan over outstanding inside candidates, together with Cameron Barr and Steven Ginsberg, a lot of whom had totally different supporting factions inside the newsroom. Buzbee saved each on her management crew, promoting Ginsberg to managing editor and Barr to senior managing editor.

Her choice was historic, the primary lady to ever function government editor of the Post. But there have been quite a few employees departures that raised questions on editorial stability.

High-profile political staffers who left the publication embody Robert Costa, who departed earlier this year for CBS News and White House reporter Seung Min Kim, who introduced final week that she’s becoming a member of The Associated Press. Investigative researcher Julie Tate left for the New York Times, as did David Fahrenthold, who gained a Pulitzer for his work into Trump enterprise offers.

The latest dustups have led some employees to query whether or not Buzbee and the paper’s administration can information the famend information group in an period the place the Post’s prime priorities are much less clear than throughout the later a part of Baron’s tenure. As proof of Buzbee’s continued try to steadiness inside employees dynamics with the bigger newsroom mission, the Post issued new draft social media pointers this week with directives for her crew and held inside listening periods with employees to listen to suggestions.

The Post has additionally grow to be more and more guarded about employees leaking data. When management circulated a brand new draft of the social media insurance policies, employees have been required to make use of their Washington Post IDs to entry the doc, and couldn’t obtain it. The new doc additionally urged employees towards revealing inside communications, together with electronic mail and Slack messages.

According to a replica of the draft pointers seen by POLITICO, the Post declared that hashtags like “#defundthepolice and #stopthesteal” must be averted, whereas others like #blacklivesmatter and #pleasure are allowed. Posts that “celebrate identity and recognize marginalized people’s humanity are not political advocacy,” in response to the rules. But the paper cautioned employees from utilizing comparable language in tweets as a result of “they could easily be construed as voicing an opinion and should be avoided.”

The paper’s insurance policies additionally urged employees towards criticizing colleagues publicly on social media, saying that even when going through on-line harassment, “these sorts of attacks do not give Post journalists license to violate this policy in retaliation.”

Washington Post spokesperson Kristine Coratti Kelly stated the doc was an early draft of concepts. “It was a document intended to give people a base from which to react, and it made the sessions very productive,” she stated.

Through Coratti Kelly, Buzbee declined to remark for this story, saying she had already dedicated to collaborating in a one-year retrospective on her tenure with one other publication.

Buzbee has overseen the enlargement of the modifying ranks and launched new protection of democracy, the setting and different key points. Her responsiveness to worker enter has earned her inside reward. She holds common inside newsroom Q-and-A’s and infrequently responds straight (if at instances vaguely) to issues they’ve. After becoming a member of the Post, she rearranged Baron’s outdated workplace so her desk confronted the door, which symbolically and actually is open most instances of the day.

She has additionally tried to decrease the temperature with the corporate’s editorial union, which commonly clashed with Baron over issues related to newsroom diversity and social media policies, amongst different points. Four of the Washington Post staffers stated Buzbee proactively communicates with the union about newsroom points, a shift from the tense relationship the union had with Baron, who typically ignored correspondence from its management.

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