Submit’s new CEO William Lewis has confronted huge tales and company drama

Submit’s new CEO William Lewis has confronted huge tales and company drama


Inside a handful of days, William Lewis was each knighted by British royalty and employed by one of many richest males on this planet as CEO and writer of The Washington Submit.

One position, ceremonial with few duties or expectations. The opposite, fairly the other.

In an interview Sunday, the London-born veteran media government acknowledged the challenges of the job forward — a softening advert market, a shrinking and distracted viewers, a employees dealing with anticipated cuts — whereas professing optimism concerning the establishment he’s becoming a member of.

“We’re going to develop. We’re going to get our swagger again,” Lewis mentioned, echoing a phrase that Jeff Bezos, the founding father of Amazon, has used concerning the information group he purchased a decade in the past. “I do know that proper now is just not our biggest time, however we’re going to develop once more. And we’re going to get that confidence again and that swagger again. I can inform you that with absolute confidence.”

A former reporter, Lewis, 54, has had firsthand involvement in among the greatest tales for the British press over the previous quarter century: As a younger enterprise author for the Monetary Occasions — and “a journalist’s journalist,” within the phrases of 1 colleague — he broke the information of Exxon’s merger with Mobil in 1999. A decade later, he steered the Telegraph’s investigative reporting into lawmakers’ misuse of public funds for private bills.

He additionally had a particular vantage on that trade’s greatest debacle, after being assigned to assist clear up the mess at Information Corp. within the wake of the phone-hacking and police bribery scandal that wracked Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid empire greater than a decade in the past. That job preceded his most outstanding position till now — the six years he spent as writer of the Wall Road Journal and CEO of Dow Jones.

Nonetheless, Lewis’s hiring at The Submit drew fast curiosity throughout the media world due to his historical past working within the extremely partisan British media world, and particularly with Murdoch, the billionaire who grew to become a driving power in international conservative politics.

At The Submit, Lewis can be answerable for your complete firm, not with shaping its information report or opinion part. The chief editor, Sally Buzbee, runs the newsroom; opinions editor David Shipley runs the editorial web page, which has traditionally endorsed extra Democratic presidential candidates than Republicans. Each will report back to him. This distinction applies to most newspapers, together with the Wall Road Journal, which runs a tightly conservative editorial web page however a nonpartisan information report.

One previous buddy who cheered Lewis’s appointment was former British prime minister Boris Johnson, who wrote a column for the U.Ok. Every day Telegraph when Lewis was its editor.

“Will Lewis is an excellent editor with a really sharp enterprise mind,” mentioned Johnson in an announcement launched to The Submit. “There is no such thing as a one higher at organizing a day-by-day marketing campaign to convey new data into the general public area. And he’s due to this fact an incredible match with The Washington Submit.”

Johnson, a Conservative who really helpful Lewis for a knighthood, additionally described Lewis as a fellow “Brexiteer” — an evaluation Lewis denied in his interview.

“No, I wouldn’t say it’s true,” Lewis mentioned. “He has no concept what my views of Brexit are.”

Lewis disagrees with media descriptions of him as a former “Murdoch lieutenant,” noting they haven’t spoken in three years and that he has at all times upheld impartial journalism no matter possession.

As for his personal political beliefs, he mentioned he believes in “creating the fitting surroundings for wealth creation” and described himself as socially liberal. (“Individuals ought to be capable of name themselves what they wish to name themselves. They need to self-determine. They need to be left alone and be who they wish to be.”) And he emphasised his dedication to democracy and equity in society.

“Lots of people begin life from a distinct place than others and consequently, stay deprived eternally. And that’s not good. And there could be issues which are accomplished to cease that or mitigate that,” he mentioned.

However his true ardour is journalism — “I want I used to be nonetheless a journalist,” he mentioned — and he ticked off potential targets and priorities for The Submit: bringing in youthful audiences, utilizing synthetic intelligence as “a complement and strategy to make our journalism even higher,” new subscription methods and pushing even tougher on “extra personalised choices” for information shoppers.

He mentioned he’s dedicated to conventional journalistic ideas — “the separation of nonpartisan information from reported commentary (and) from business exercise.” However he desires to seek out extra income sources. “I don’t like having all our eggs in a single basket … so if promoting dips, it’s not (to the) panic stations.”

Lewis, who left the Wall Road Journal in 2020, was taking part in tennis together with his godson in France this summer time when he first bought a telephone name gauging his curiosity in operating The Submit.

The search to fill the job had been launched by interim CEO Patty Stonesifer after Fred Ryan, who held the position throughout most of Bezos’s tenure as proprietor, stepped down this summer time. With the assistance of a recruiting agency, she severely thought of greater than two dozen candidates.

She and Bezos have been drawn to Lewis, she mentioned, as a result of he had spent a number of years “in the beginning as a journalist — after which switched to say that nice journalism wants nice enterprise.”

The challenges going through The Submit, which is projected to take a $100 million loss this yr and a ten % minimize to the employees via buyouts, are “not simply enterprise challenges,” she mentioned. Additionally they concern questions on the way to “guarantee (that) high quality journalism can nonetheless attain the widest potential viewers, and have a monetary mannequin that may be certain that it’s an impartial supply of media.”

On the time, Lewis had been operating Information Motion, a start-up centered on delivering nonpartisan information to youthful audiences on social platforms. (He hopes to stay a shareholder.) He had additionally explored buying the Telegraph.

However he couldn’t resist the brand new alternative. “The Washington Submit is the factor, he mentioned. “It’s the factor I grew up on. I used to be schooled on Watergate, the Pentagon Papers.”

He mentioned he revered the “lifetime dedication” that Bezos has made to The Submit since buying it for $250 million in 2013 and ushering in an period of dramatic enlargement. “He purchased this for the fitting causes, and he’s not stopping,” Lewis mentioned.

Sharp. Witty. Considerate. Join the Type Memo publication.

A information obsessive — he writes a weekly electronic mail roundup of stories articles to his pals on “what to learn” — he mentioned his past love was monetary journalism.

He first led a newsroom on the Telegraph, the place he oversaw the protection of the expense account scandal that rocked the political institution and prompted the resignation of the speaker of the Home of Commons and several other ministers.

Lewis “needed to have large braveness to print that story,” mentioned Andrew Porter, a former political journalist who labored on the report. Some critics — and newspaper rivals — criticized it as “chequebook journalism,” so known as as a result of the Telegraph paid a reported 110,000 kilos for entry to a pc disk taken from a parliamentary charges workplace — a choice most mainstream information retailers would shun. However Porter mentioned that Lewis “understood the way to play that story, he put a crew on it, they put themselves in a room for a month, and got here out with a sequence for a month.” Lewis was named Journalist of the 12 months on the 2010 British Press Awards.

In 2010, Lewis joined Murdoch’s Information U.Ok. empire, and his fame amongst some Information Corp. journalists took successful when he was then tasked with serving to to wash up the aftermath of the telephone hacking scandal, through which journalists have been accused of illegally hacking into cellphones.

A number of folks interviewed for this text mentioned that some Murdoch tabloid journalists believed Lewis offered them out by offering journalists’ data to the police as a part of his work on the Administration and Requirements Committee. Lewis denies it.

“I did no matter I might to protect journalistic integrity,” he mentioned. Lewis additionally downplayed his position on the committee, saying he had a junior place, tasked with guaranteeing journalistic ideas have been revered as a part of the investigation. However he declined to debate the episode.

“I took a view very early on that I’m by no means going to speak about it,” he mentioned. “And it’s both proper or mistaken that I’ve accomplished that.” He has beforehand denied accusations that he performed a task in concealing emails concerning the hacking scandal.

Stonesifer mentioned that the sum of Lewis’s 30-year profession confirmed he “didn’t draw back” from tough choices. “That form of daring management was a part of what we have been truly searching for. And imagine me, we did our homework to find out whether or not that management went too far.”

At Dow Jones and the Wall Road Journal from 2014 to 2020, he oversaw a interval of development in viewers and digital subscriptions. Alan Rusbridger, former editor in chief of the Guardian, noticed Lewis’s ascension to that position as proof that he had happy Murdoch together with his dealing with of the telephone hacking scandal. “I’m certain he’ll negotiate the connection between proprietor and newsroom with some deftness.”

In 2020, Lewis was reported to be within the operating for the highest job on the BBC. It didn’t occur. However his curiosity within the job was telling, mentioned Jane Martinson, creator of “You Could By no means See Us Once more,” a brand new ebook concerning the house owners of the Every day Telegraph. “The locations he’s needed to run — the BBC, The Washington Submit — they’re organizations identified for nice journalism at tough monetary factors,” she mentioned. “Possibly he feels that’s his problem. He’ll have a number of concepts.”

Lewis described the totality of his profession — from overlaying misdeeds of politicians throughout the political spectrum whereas working at a conservative U.Ok. paper, to serving as writer of the Wall Road Journal when it broke the Theranos scandal, imploding a enterprise through which Murdoch had a monetary stake — to underscore his dedication to impartial journalism, irrespective of the proprietor.

“If you happen to’ve been within the media trade 33 years and had the number of jobs I’ve had, you’ll work for various folks with totally different approaches,” he mentioned. “Now I can convey to bear as my very own particular person having discovered the nice bits within the dangerous bits. You will see that in me somebody that doesn’t get fazed by being shouted at by necessary politicians.”

Ryan employed Buzbee of the Related Press to run The Submit’s newsroom as government editor. Lewis, who knew her beforehand throughout his time as a member of the AP board, mentioned he’s “an enormous fan of hers” and is “one hundred pc” dedicated to her remaining within the job.

Lewis can be transferring to Washington to tackle the position. His spouse, Becca, co-head of a main faculty in London, will be a part of him possible when the varsity yr ends. He has 4 kids; his eldest daughter lives in D.C., working for Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

And as soon as he begins Jan. 2, he’ll set about trying “below the hood” as he develops and shares a extra detailed plan for The Submit’s future. He’s discovered in earlier roles, that among the greatest concepts come in-house — and he plans to go looking all ranges of the present employees for them.

“I’m not an actual respecter of hierarchy,” he mentioned.

And he received’t be going by Sir William, both.

Sarah Ellison, Will Sommer and Jeremy Barr contributed to this report.

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