- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Washington Times announced Monday that it has changed the primary leadership of its business and financial operations in order to better keep up with the challenges of a competitive media marketplace.

President and Publisher Thomas P. McDevitt, Chief Financial Officer Keith Cooperrider and Chairman Douglas D.M. Joo were relieved of their jobs Sunday.

Jonathan Slevin, who previously served as vice president of The Times, has been named acting president and publisher of the newspaper. An independent assessment and leadership team has been organized to address the practicalities of daily operations, and ultimately, the future sustainability of the news organization.

“There are no plans to shut the company down,” Mr. Slevin told Times employees during a meeting Monday morning. “We expect The Washington Times to continue to serve its readers and viewers for years to come.”

Mr. Slevin told the staff he expected management’s plans for the future “to be concrete quite soon. Your dedication and efforts to move us from a print newspaper to a multimedia enterprise is a key to our success,” Mr. Slevin said. “Your work is the foundation that we will use to go forward, to become a sustainable enterprise.”

In the past two years, The Times has upgraded its Web site and broadcast news-gathering capacity, launched a nationally syndicated radio show, a conservative Web site, a citizen journalism project and a news syndication service — among a burgeoning list of news products that contemporary journalism and its consumers now demand.

Mr. Slevin praised the employees for their work and flexibility in a time of change, noting that widening the reach of The Times and opening other markets formed the “nucleus” of the company’s strategy.

“The Washington Times has a deserved reputation as a fearless voice for citizens,” he said. “In our charge forward, we’ll focus on common sense.”

He told the employees, “Thank you for your steadfastness in the changes that will come.”

Faced with a troubled economy and competition for audience from broadcast and Internet sources, newspapers across the nation have faced falling revenues, bankruptcies, layoffs, buyouts, mergers and cutbacks.

The news about news is grim. Almost 6,000 newspaper journalists lost their jobs last year — the biggest one-year drop in history — according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which has conducted annual newsroom surveys for more than three decades.

The struggle to “monetize” newspaper content that is now available for free on the Internet has plagued newspaper executives across the board.

The “death of newspapers” also has drawn powerful political interest from lawmakers who are exploring federal “bailouts” for the industry, along with tax breaks and other restructuring efforts meant to ease the woes of the nation’s print media.

“America’s newspapers are struggling to survive,” Sen. John Kerry told employees of the Boston Globe, which has been losing about $1 million a week this year and faced closure.

The Chicago Sun-Times filed for Chapter 11 protection in April, making it the fifth American paper to take that option in the past three months. None of the papers, however, has ceased publication.

It is “the bleakest” of times, said the 2009 State of the News Media Report, released in March by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

But the study also cited some promise for the future. In print, broadcast and online, the news media have an eager, evolving audience and a wealth of content.

“We still do not subscribe to the theory that the death of the industry is imminent,” the 700-page report said, noting that newspapers in particular “remained profitable,” though their overall revenue declined 16 percent in the past 12 months.

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