Will Lewis

Washington Post CEO Faces Mounting Pressure Amid Ethics Controversies

Washington Post’s new publisher and CEO, Will Lewis, is under intense scrutiny following allegations of unethical journalism practices from his past tenure at the Sunday Times. A New York Times report on Saturday revealed that Lewis allegedly used fraudulent methods to gather information for articles in the early 2000s.

The report, citing a former co-worker, a private investigator, and an investigation of newspaper archives, claims that Lewis obtained information through phone and company records by hacking and paying sources.

The controversy raises questions about Lewis’s future at one of America’s most respected newspapers. Margaret Sullivan, executive director of the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, told CNN on Sunday that Lewis’s position is “increasingly untenable.”

The allegations follow the sudden dismissal of former executive editor Sally Buzbee, adding to the newsroom’s turmoil. A Washington Post article published late Sunday reported that Robert Winnett, appointed by Lewis to lead the newsroom after the November U.S. presidential election, was linked to using unethical methods to obtain information.

In response, the Washington Post stated, “We cover The Washington Post independently, rigorously and fairly.” They have assigned former senior managing editor Cameron Barr to oversee the coverage, given potential conflicts of interest.

The Society of Professional Journalists emphasizes ethical journalism standards, warning against paying for access to news and using surreptitious methods of information gathering.

Lewis, who has previously denied any wrongdoing in a UK phone hacking scandal, now faces renewed scrutiny over these past practices. He has repeatedly stated his commitment to ethical journalism and non-interference in editorial matters.

In a recent internal meeting, Lewis reiterated his dedication to supporting great journalism without crossing ethical lines. However, the ongoing allegations and recent staff departures have severely impacted newsroom morale.

A source within the Washington Post indicated that staff morale has plummeted, with one employee describing the current atmosphere as “unprecedentedly bad.”

The situation has prompted calls for decisive action from Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos. In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Sullivan suggested that firing Lewis might be the best course of action to restore stability and trust. She also recommended reinstating an independent public editor to oversee journalistic ethics at the paper.

As Lewis continues to defend his position, the Washington Post faces significant challenges in maintaining its reputation for journalistic integrity amidst these controversies.

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