Washington Times publisher ousted after clashing with editor

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 26, 2010

The president of the Washington Times said Sunday that he had been fired by a board of directors that "has no experience in the newspaper business" after clashing with an editor whose behavior has "had a detrimental effect on the company."

Jonathan Slevin said in a letter to the staff that it was "particularly upsetting" that the paper's new editor, Sam Dealey, had leaked information about his ouster, "since I had hired this young man with the intention of grooming him in his first opportunity to be an editor."

Dealey said in an interview that "it's no secret in the newsroom that Jonathan had an expansive view of his role as publisher and his view didn't sit well with the editor." He declined to respond to specific allegations, saying he wished Slevin well and would concentrate on putting out the newspaper.

The acrimonious departure of Slevin, who also held the title of publisher, is the latest problem at a paper that in recent months has fired three top executives, accepted the resignation of its top two editors, been sued by its former editorial page editor and laid off half its staff. Politico reported on Slevin's departure Friday, and Times spokesman Don Meyer denied the story. Meyer said Sunday that he had been given inaccurate information.

During the initial shakeup, the Times, which is owned by officials of the Unification Church, gave Slevin, the paper's vice chairman, a six-month contract as president. Slevin said in his letter that it became "exceedingly difficult for me and my leadership team to work with" the company's two-person board, which he said was "taking an active and intrusive role" on financial, legal and personnel issues.

Slevin, who did not respond to a telephone message, singled out board member Nick Chiaia, who, he said, has repeatedly "communicated directly to me his disdain for the Washington Times." He wrote that Chiaia and the other director, Richard Wojcik, "were either aloof or out of touch with our endeavors, which made things even more difficult."

What's more, Slevin said, "the board has neither approved nor disapproved the budget, leaving us in operational limbo," and that with a constant emphasis on the needs of sister company United Press International, its "decisions seemed at times to reflect other priorities that conflicted with their fiduciary responsibilities" at the Times. Chiaia, who is president of UPI, did not respond to a request for comment.

People familiar with the situation say Slevin and Dealey repeatedly clashed almost from the start, with Slevin asserting the right to be involved in editorial decisions and news meetings and Dealey responding in strong language that this was unacceptable. At many large newspapers, the publisher is considered a corporate executive who oversees the editorial board but does not get involved in news coverage decisions.

Richard Miniter, the former editorial page editor, said he believes Slevin was dismissed because of the Times' budgetary woes. "Church officials more than likely had to hold someone accountable for the failing finances of the paper, and the person you hold accountable is the president and publisher," he said.

Staff writer Ian Shapira contributed to this report.

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