Monday, July 8, 2013

The Washington Times announced Monday that award-winning investigative journalist John Solomon is returning after a hiatus of more than 3½ years to oversee the newspaper’s content, digital and business strategies.

Mr. Solomon, 46, will reprise his role as the newspaper’s top editor overseeing news and opinion. In addition to being editor, Mr. Solomon also will take on broader responsibilities helping fashion the company’s strategies for advertising, digital publishing and audience acquisition as vice president for content and business development.

“John Solomon has consistently been one of the country’s most compelling journalists over the last two decades. He has broken some of the nation’s most important stories while leading the reporters and editors around him to do the same,” said Larry Beasley, The Times’ president and chief executive officer.

“But just as important, John has pressed, pushed and prodded the profession to stretch beyond traditional business models and embrace the new journalistic opportunities of the 21st century,” Mr. Beasley added. “His work in 2008-2009 at The Times helped us significantly improve the reach and financial condition of this company, and he has returned to help put us back on the course to profitability that he started back then.”

The Times also announced it had reached an agreement to acquire the Washington Guardian, an online investigative news portal created in 2012 by Mr. Solomon and former Associated Press executives Jim Williams and Brad Kalbfeld.

The Guardian has garnered considerable attention with its exclusive reporting, including stories about the al Qaeda attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and its weekly Golden Hammer award, which highlights wasteful spending in government.

Mr. Solomon joins an executive leadership team reporting to Mr. Beasley that includes Chief Operating Officer John Martin, Chief Financial Officer Keith Cooperrider and Director of Human Resources Loveia Johnson.

Executive Editor David Jackson, who played a key role during the newspaper’s recent efforts to reorganize its newsroom and implement a digital-first strategy, stepped down last week. “We appreciate David’s efforts and wish him well in his new endeavors,” Mr. Beasley said.

Already this year, The Times has reduced its operating losses to the lowest level in its 31-year history while doubling advertising and sales revenues since January. Its Web traffic has grown substantially, and the number of readers who subscribe to one of its digital newsletters has grown sevenfold from 100,000 in January to more than 700,000 this month, creating a new source of reader engagement and advertising revenues.

The Times reaches about 90,000 print subscribers and 10 million readers each month online. The paper is poised to expand its audience over the next several months with new radio, TV and tablet products, Mr. Beasley said.

Mr. Solomon had served as The Times’ executive editor in 2008-09, a period in which the news organization added a radio program and a TV affiliation, spurring significant audience and revenue growth and reduced its operating losses by a large margin in the midst of an economic recession.

The newspaper under his tenure won some of journalism’s highest honors, finishing as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for photography and winning the Society of Professional Journalists’ highest national award for investigative reporting and the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy journalism award.

“It’s great to be back, especially with a news organization that is relentlessly committed to journalistic excellence and finding the best path to profitability in this new digital marketplace,” Mr. Solomon said. “In a few short months, Larry Beasley has set The Times on the right course and I’m excited to be joining his team for what promises to be one of journalism’s great rides.”

Mr. Solomon returned to the newspaper as a consultant last fall, helping craft digital strategies that have expanded Web traffic, grown the company’s list of email followers tenfold and created new products and partnerships that will be unveiled over the next few months. In March, he led a reorganization of the company’s advertising and sales team, which has doubled revenues over the past three months.

He said the newspaper will unveil a new subscription-only national edition targeted for tablets, cellphones and other mobile devices this summer. Mr. Solomon added that The Times will debut a Web redesign led by Mr. Martin around Labor Day. The company has launched several new advertising products in recent weeks, including email marketing solutions for local and national advertisers, new tablet and mobile ads, grass-roots engagement tools and a new print solution for front-page print advertising.

Mr. Solomon said his focus as editor will be to lead a newsroom that will create content that “is as exclusive, compelling and current as it can be, aligned to the subjects our consumers most care about — politics, policy, national security, accountability and family values. We will deliver all this through every channel that our audience uses.”

“We want our readers to find exclusive news and conservative thought leadership every time they click on us on their tablets, flip on their radios and TVs or pick up the print edition from their driveways,” Mr. Solomon said.

Mr. Solomon worked for two decades at The Associated Press, where he rose to the position of assistant bureau chief in Washington and helped develop some of the wire service’s first digital products, such as its online elections offering. He also broke numerous award-winning stories, including exposes about how federally funded researchers used foster children as guinea pigs for AIDS drug experiments and what the government knew about al Qaeda threats on U.S. soil before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In 2007, he served as The Washington Post’s national investigative correspondent and led an award-winning project with “60 Minutes” that disclosed how the FBI for decades used a bogus science to match bullets to crime scenes. The story compelled the FBI to review hundreds of cases in which defendants might have been convicted because of scientifically flawed evidence.

After leaving The Times in 2009, Mr. Solomon started his own media company while continuing to break major investigative stories. In 2010 at the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, he broke one of the first major stories about the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal. In 2011, while serving as director of news at Newsweek, Mr. Solomon scored the first interview with the New York hotel maid at the center of the sex scandal that toppled former International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He wrote a book about the case that was published in the United States and Europe.

Shortly after starting the Washington Guardian in September, Mr. Solomon broke one of the first stories — just two days after the Benghazi attack — that disclosed that the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya was linked to al Qaeda and was unrelated to an anti-Islam video, an account that contradicted the Obama administration’s official story.

For weeks, his reporting exposed the State Department’s legacy of poor security at embassies worldwide and what the president knew about the true nature of attack, even as U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice made misleading statements on TV.

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