WaPo CEO brutally tells employees: We’re losing money because no one is reading your stories

Will Lewis, the Washington Post’s publisher and CEO, told whiplashed staff on Monday the paper needs to do something radical to make the company profitable because readership has drastically declined.

The meeting was held after executive editor Sally Buzbee abruptly left the Washington Post after coming from the Associated Press in 2021.

“We need world-class journalism every single day, and the people that are coming in to help us do that will be a real benefit to the organization,” he said. He said he “really enjoyed working with Sally” and “wish[ed] it could have gone on for longer, but it couldn’t,” according to Vanity Fair, based on people who were in the meeting.

The meeting became tense at times because some staffers felt Buzbee’s departure was not handled correctly and they objected to a woman being replaced with another white man. The issue of diversity within the paper’s leadership was brought up several times. Lewis said the lack of diversity is an issue but that the main problem is how the nation’s capital newspaper is hemorrhaging money.

Lewis cannot ‘expect to bring in new readers’ when he’s ‘abolished all diversity from the leadership.’

“We are losing large amounts of money. Your audience has halved in recent years. People are not reading your stuff. I can’t sugarcoat it anymore,” Lewis said. “So I’ve had to take decisive, urgent action to set us on a different path, sourcing talent that I have worked with that are the best of the best.”

The Washington Post sent out a quick note on Sunday about Buzbee’s departure in order to try to prevent getting scooped by the New York Times, one of the reasons employees felt Buzbee was disrespected. Politico noted the Times did beat the Post to the announcement anyway.

Despite the urgent news about the company’s dire finances and dwindling audience, an employee who spoke to Vanity Fair was still hung up on the lack of diversity.

“I don’t think she deserved to go out this way,” the staffer said, noting that in conversations with their colleagues, people “don’t feel good about the fact that the first female executive editor of TheWashington Post got a one paragraph goodbye note at 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday, and that she’s being replaced by more white men we don’t know.”

The New York Post reports Lewis impressed upon people they needed to “get with the program.”

Lewis cannot “expect to bring in new readers” when he’s “abolished all diversity from the leadership,” a source similarly told the NY Post.

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