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New DC chief 'Daily Beast' resigns after just five weeks

New DC chief 'Daily Beast' resigns after just five weeks
New DC chief 'Daily Beast' resigns after just five weeks

 


The Daily Beast's Washington bureau chief resigned just five weeks after being hired, Hot Source has learned, leaving the site without a political editor just months before the election. His departure comes as most of the paper's unionized journalists prepare to flee at the end of next week after accepting generous buyouts.

Martin Pengelly joined the Daily Beast last month from the Guardian, where he served for 20 years. The renowned publisher had become known as “the man of books” thanks to his almost strange ability to grab copies of trending books before their publication date. Pengelly resigned from his new position late last week, but the chief content and creative Joanna Coles and publisher and CEO Ben Sherwood (known to staff members as “Boanna”) begged him to keep news of his colleagues and continue working until next Friday, when nearly two dozen staff members who had accepted the buyout should leave publication. Hot Source has learned that there will be several layoffs of non-guild employees as well as staff on the business side of the Beast at the end of next week.

Several people familiar with the situation say Pengelly had been reluctantly lured from his comfortable seat at the Guardian by the promise of leading a revamped political operation in a momentous election. But he soon found himself confronting Coles over some of his more outlandish ideas, including giving Pengelly a story to consult with “medical experts” to review footage of President Biden and determine whether he suffered from Alzheimer's disease. “Boanna” had attempted to recruit another high-profile Guardian journalist, Hugo Lowell, to join the Beast in covering the world from Trump, but he withdrew from negotiations with the two men last weekend. Coles and Sherwood also attempted to involve Mary Ann Akers who is married to the journalist Michael Isikoff, and was previously Congressional Editor at The Messenger, helping staff D.C.'s Washington bureau. Pengelly, Lowell and Akers declined to comment.

In just over two months since taking office, Coles' ideas have polarized staff. She first put journalists offside by posting an ad on her Instagram for a “Senior Lauren Sanchez Correspondent” to cover the trials and tribulations of Jeff Bezos' fiancée. Among his most recent controversial assignments, according to staff, has been an influx of lists like the one titled “Joe Biden Didn't Poop Himself, But These Celebrities Did” billed as “a definitive list of celebrities who share their pants too much.” The article was attributed to an intern who was working his last day at the Daily Beast and declined to have his byline on the story.

Since Coles and Sherwood took over the site, the site has produced several high-profile yarns, including a agenda setting profile of RFK Jr's running mate Nicole Shanahan and one deep dive In Will Lewis ” lust for power. But other, more bizarre ideas were mercifully killed before reaching the site. After Train bassist Charlie Colin was found dead after falling in the shower, Coles wanted to assign a story telling readers how to avoid falling in the shower When “Super Size Me” director Morgan Spurlock died of cancer, Sherwood expressed interest in a story asking if it was McDonald's who killed him. had killed.

Among the heavy hitters who participated in the buyout and were accepted by the company is a veteran journalist from New York. Michael Dalywho was one of Tina BrownThe first hires from when she founded The Daily Beast (where Hot Source worked from 2018 to 2024) and senior columnist Matt Lewis who was one of the only conservative voices on the site. “It’s a tough industry right now,” Lewis told Hot Source. “It’s like if you get to the show you get lucky and you don’t want to leave, but after seven years it seemed like the right time to call it a day.” Daly and Lewis, as well as anyone accepted for a buyout, have until Friday to cancel.

If none of them change their minds, he will leave the site with two breaking news reporters, two political reporters, an entertainment writer and a handful of others to staff its photo and social desks. “None of us know how we're supposed to get the news out without staff,” a Beast reporter told Hot Source. But Coles and Sherwood plan to reset the site into a “smart tabloid” by imposing financial discipline on a publication that was losing about $5 million a year under previous management.

When the buyouts were initially offered to employees, five applied. The day it was announced Editor-in-Chief Tracy Connor would leave the publication, seven additional people would have been hired for the takeover. After five days of work under the direction of the new editor-in-chiefHugh Dougherty, 13 more people applied, bringing the total to 25 of the union's 35 members. Coles is looking to bring in new recruits and has even come up with a men's grooming column tentatively titled “Taming the Beast.”

“From day one, our strategy has been to build on the strengths of The Beast while making it more relevant and current. We have a new editor-in-chief to help us achieve our goal. At the same time, we negotiated a generous buyout plan to reshape the newsroom for the future,” a Daily Beast spokesperson, representing Sherwood and Coles, emailed Hot Source. “We expected a large number of employees to take us up on our offer, and we have plans and resources in place to ensure The Beast can deliver what readers expect: quality journalism with bite and flair.” We are confident that with these changes and a new editorial and business strategy, we can restore and revitalize The Beast and meet this moment of challenge and opportunity. We are convinced that our new editorial and commercial strategy will enable the Beast to meet the challenge of this extremely important year for information.

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