NEW YORK — Two top editors and a reporter at Newsweek were fired on Monday, and two other reporters left in limbo, in a purge that targeted employees involved in coverage of the company’s financial and legal troubles.
Bob Roe, the magazine’s editor-in-chief; Kenneth Li, its executive news director; and Celeste Katz, a reporter, were dismissed after receiving Google Calendar invitations to meet with executives at Newsweek’s parent company, the Newsweek Media Group, three employees confirmed. Katz had reported on the company’s affairs, including a raid by the Manhattan district attorney’s office last month, and Li had overseen the coverage.
Two other reporters involved in the coverage — Josh Saul, a Newsweek writer, and Josh Keefe, a writer at the affiliated International Business Times — were locked out of their computers and e-mail accounts on Monday. They were not fired, but did not know whether they would still have jobs come morning.
“I have not been fired, although that was very clearly the plan,” Keefe tweeted.
Newsweek’s communications department did not respond to a request for comment Monday evening, but said in statements to other news organizations that it would not discuss personnel matters. The magazine’s new acting editor, Nancy Cooper, also did not respond to an e-mail sent to her personal address.
After the district attorney’s raid on Jan. 18, editors at Newsweek assigned a group of reporters to investigate the company. An employee in the news department said that executives had vetted those reporters’ stories before publication.
At first, two employees said, the company’s chief content officer, Dayan Candappa, protected the reporters, essentially acting as a buffer between them and top executives. But last week, Candappa took a leave of absence in response to allegations of sexual harassment.
After the firings were announced, Matthew Cooper, a senior writer at Newsweek who has spent more than 30 years in journalism, quit in protest. In a resignation letter that he posted on Twitter, Cooper denounced Newsweek Media Group both for the firings and for what he called a pattern of “reckless leadership.”
“It’s the installation of editors, not Li and Roe, who recklessly sought clicks at the expense of accuracy, retweets over fairness, that leaves me most despondent not only for Newsweek but for other publications that don’t heed the lessons of this publication’s fall,” he wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Dev Pragad, the company’s chief executive.
IBT Media, the publisher of the International Business Times, purchased Newsweek in 2013 and rebranded as the Newsweek Media Group in 2017. It has undergone multiple rounds of layoffs since the purchase, but the past month has been particularly tumultuous.
On Jan. 18, the Manhattan district attorney’s office raided Newsweek’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan and seized 18 computer servers as part of an investigation related to the company’s finances. The founders of IBT Media have been scrutinized for their financial and personal connections to South Korean pastor David Jang and Olivet University, the small Bible college he runs.
And last week, BuzzFeed News reported that the company had used fraudulent practices, including buying Web traffic, to win a lucrative ad campaign from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.