Most 'Washington Times' Circulation Will Be Free Under New Plan

Editor and Publisher/December 3, 2009

New York - More than half of The Washington Times' circulation will be free under the new business strategy revealed this week, according to Publisher/President Jonathan Slevin. He added that the new plan, which includes substantial job cuts, is necessary to end the paper's reliance on subsidies from the Unification Church ownership.

"Rev. Moon, who founded the paper, has passed on the mantle to his son, Preston," Slevin told E&P. "He has a vision and is very passionately committed to The Washington Times and wants to run it like a business."

Slevin, who took over as publisher last month, said that means no more subsidies from the church, which had been rumored to be as high as $40 million per year. "That figure is not accurate, but the figure was substantial," Slevin said.

Slevin's comments followed Wednesday's announcement that the Times would undergo substantial changes in distribuion, staffing and news coverage. More than half of the paper's circulation will be free though a targeted distribution to government and other influential officials. The paper also plans to cut staffing by at least 40%.

"The significant component is moving to a controlled-market circulation paper," Slevin noted. "We will cover the prominent corridors of power with that, and if you want home delivery or office delivery, it will be available at a price."

Daily circulation had taken a hit in the recent Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX Report for the six months ending Sept. 30, dropping from 80,962 to 67,148 compared to the same period a year earlier. Slevin said circulation would be reduced further, but did not indicate by how much: "There is still some due diligence we need to do to determine what circulation will result in what advertising revenue."

But he noted that "more than a simple majority will be no cost, it will be more than half, significantly more than half."

News coverage will be altered, Slevin said, stating "the newsroom will be smaller and we will focus on our strengths, which are national security, national politics, geo-strategic areas and cultural coverage, in addition to the opinion pages and investigation."

The overhaul announced this week follows a recent management shake-up in November that included the dismissal of former president and publisher Thomas McDevitt, chief financial officer Keith Cooperrider and chairman Dong Moon Joo, as well as the departure of Editor John Solomon.

Slevin said a new editor may not be appointed, citing the ability of the two current managing editors to run the newsroom. "We are going to have something that is not a traditional news structure," Slevin said, noting the editor post "is not a spot that necessarily needs to be filled."

During the upheaval some employees, specifically former Editorial Page Editor Richard Miniter, have claimed Times employees were forced to attend Unification Church religious events. Slevin declined to comment on the issue.

Overall, he called Wednesday a "bittersweet" day. "It was known that a good number of people will no longer be with us," he said. "But the forward-looking part is that we have a plan by which the paper and the multimedia company will get better."

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