U.S. News Gives a Top Political Writer the Pink Slip

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 5, 2005

U.S. News & World Report, undergoing yet another round of layoffs, has dropped one of its most prominent writers, chief political correspondent Roger Simon.

The magazine has given pink slips to at least 10 journalists, including congressional correspondent Terence Samuel and two staffers on maternity leave.

The remaining editorial staff of about 160 is far smaller than those of Time and Newsweek.

Editor Brian Duffy said the magazine, owned by developer Mort Zuckerman, is being forced to reinvent itself because of economic pressures and will concentrate on improving its Web site. "We've gone through a period of downsizing here for three, four, five years," he said. "Every single one hurts like hell."

Simon, a six-year U.S. News veteran, author and television pundit, was far and away the magazine's most prolific reporter on past campaigns.

Just two weeks ago, Simon was sent to San Francisco to address advertisers.

"I was really surprised," Simon said. "There were rumors that we were going to have layoffs, but I really didn't think I'd be among them. I thought I had a terrific year," which included a National Headliner Award. But, he said, "I understand it's a tough time for the magazine."

Duffy conceded that "losing a real pro like Roger is a real hard thing to do." As for a Washington-based magazine dropping its congressional reporter, he said: "The relevance of the daily congressional story has to be reevaluated for a weekly. . . . We're going to cover politics in a different way. We've still got some people here who have political chops."

Duffy said U.S. News, whose cover story this week is "America's Best Health Plans," is ceding some turf to its larger rivals, the top-selling Time and No. 2 Newsweek, owned by The Washington Post Co.

"We've never had great ambitions to supplant Time and Newsweek," he said. "Those guys do a very good job. They're in a head-to-head game. We're providing a different news service -- less celebrity-oriented news and more investigative information and service-oriented journalism."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company