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Can The Washington Times Survive?

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The Washington Times gets picked up every day on
C-SPAN, and by other major news organizations when it
scores a big hit.

But for a paper that only has a daily circulation of
just 90,000 with inflated numbers, can that marvelous
respectability continue?

The paper for years has been a beacon for both
conservative and liberal readers for its own take on
the news of the day and the direction of our culture.

Conservatives love it, liberals may hate it, but as
President Bill Clinton told me personally when I was
still a reporter for the Times, "I read you every day
to see what you're saying about me." That was respect from a man who hated The Washington Times, but said he
felt he had to read it to find out what the other side
was thinking and doing.
But can that conservative-liberal, love-hate scenario
that once made the low-circulation Washington Times
work as a pacesetting newspaper continue?

Can The Washington Times survive and continue to be a
beacon of the conservative view of America, its
politics and culture, that all can look to with
respect for a complete daily report from its own
perspective?

I doubt it, because of a festering internal civil war
within the company, featuring ideological and abusive
micro-management, that has driven out the newspaper's
best people over the past five years, and continues to
drive people out.

The latest brain-drain victim last week was Washington
Times Corp. Vice President Jonathan Slevin, executive
assistant to company CEO Douglas M. Joo. Slevin told
inquiring news organizations that he left voluntarily
-- but I'm told confidentially by several of Slevin's
close co-workers that he felt forced to leave after
months of extremely intolerant abuse and rejection of
him by Joo.

Slevin, according to people who know him best, just
gave up and refused to continue accepting a paycheck
from a company for whom he has worked for a quarter
century because its current CEO, Joo, was a tyrannical
maniac who listened to nobody except a coterie of
arse-kissers who weren't helping better the
perpetually money-losing situation of the company.

I have known Jonathan Slevin for more than a quarter
century, but he did not want to talk to me about this
situation.

Let me just say as a person who has dealt with Slevin
over many years in different situations, some of them
quite complex, involving difficult personalities and
circumstances, that Jonathan Slevin is one of the
finest, nicest, most erudite, capable, calm, kind,
sensitive, and fair individuals I have ever dealt
with, ever. He always gave his all to his employer and
the job at hand.

For Jonathan Slevin to leave his post abruptly --
albeit nicely saying he is leaving to finish his book
-- tells all who know Jonathan that something was
terribly wrong. Everybody who knows Jonathan Slevin
knows what I am saying is correct. This man is a
saintly man, and I know in my heart that he has been
wronged. So herein lies the greater story.

As the first reporter hired at The Washington Times
outside the founding group, and a 21-year veteran who
received four Pulitzer Prize nominations from the
newspaper for investigative reporting, I found from
talking to people at all levels of the company after I
left in September 2005 that the newspaper now has just
a small cadre of reliable, experienced reporting
talent. There has been a huge exodus of capable
reporters and editors on all desks and at all levels.
Why?

The Washington Times can no longer claim to be the
premiere conservative pacesetting newspaper in the
Nation's Capital, which it was in the 1980s and 1990s,
because it is no longer breaking big exclusives and
blockbuster stories that overcome its puny
circulation, despite its claimed access to powers in
the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill.

The Wall Street Journal, which has both excellent
editorial and news pages and a seasoned feisty staff
in Washington that dwarfs the news and opinion product
of The Washington Times every day. So does National
Review Magazine
online, the weekly Human Events
tabloid, rigidly ideologically conservative but
factually dependable for breaking out important
domestic and foreign news stories for readers across
the country, and liberal media outlets - The
Washington Post
, New York Times, and Los Angeles
Times
.

Broadcast competition such as Fox News on the
conservative side, CNN on the liberal side, and BBC,
NPR, and PBS on the middle-left of the ideological
spectrum also are constantly beating the socks off The
Washington Times
, both on the news side and in their
editorial opinion offerings. Why?

Because The Washington Times no longer has a feisty
newsroom, its editorial page section is turgid and
boring, and no one is picking up their stuff. It is
irrelevant.

The Washington Times' small but feisty Commentary
section run by veteran editor and Pulitzer Prize
winner Mary Lou Forbes continues to be the best
newspaper opinion section in the country for its
variety of opinion, writers who are on top of national
and world stories, and originality in presenting best
current views of all sorts, mainly libertarian. But
The Washington Times Commentary section is an oasis in
a desert of mediocrity.

The Washington Times editorial page and op-ed page run
by Tony Blankley, former press secretary to Newt
Gingrich when he was House speaker, is lame beyond
belief. Its regular contributors are boring and
unimaginative, so why read them?

According to my daily conversations and emails with
friends and former colleagues at The Washington Times,
the newsroom at 3600 New York Avenue, N.E., in
Washington, D.C. is in a morale slump that is so low
that, as a recently retired 21-year veteran of the
newspaper's national news staff and author of the
newspaper's 20-year corporate anniversary coffee-table
book in 2002, I cannot think of a worse period in the
TWT newsroom's history since the paper's founding in
May 1982 in terms of low reporter and editor morale
and low productivity when it comes to really important
breaking news scoops.

There are still some terrific reporters at the Times,
despite the departure of some of its best talent over
the past decade. Joyce Price is a steady national
reporter who continues to produce good, complete
stories on a continuing basis despite fragile health;
Bill Gertz continues as perhaps the country's best
national security reporter, along with Rowan
Scarborough, terrific Pentagon reporter; Charles Hurt
and Amy Fagan are younger very reliable and prolific
Capitol Hill reporters.

But national editor Ken Hanner is just a glorified
administrative secretary who does the daily news
tout. He edits no stories and couldn't write his way
out of a paper bag. His news judgment is on a par with
a first-year college journalism student.

On the paper's metro desk, Arlo Wagner, the TWT dean
of reporters who's been there from Day One, continues
to prove that experience and energy count. But former
metro editor Carleton Bryant -- bumped up to assistant
managing editor to succeed departed AME Ken McIntyre,
who recently fled after many years to join the
Heritage Foundation -- is another glorified desk
jockey with little reporting expertise or news
judgment.

Bryant, recently moved up the editorial ladder,
succeeded McIntyre only because over the years he's
been a good arse-kisser of Wesley Pruden Jr., TWT
editor-in-chief, and Francis B. Coombs Jr., TWT
managing editor.

There's also an unfolding scandal involving a chief
photo department editor who apparently has an eye for
young women photographers and, according to filed
complaints, made sexual overtures to photographers as
they applied and sought employment at The Washington
Times
. Complaints were lodged and went nowhere, upper
management knew, some photo department employees left
in disgust because nothing was done. This is a bubble
about to burst.

The rest of the newsroom, except foreign editor David
Jones (a liberal from Canada), the fairest and best
editor at the Times in the view of many, is full of
anemic old reporters who no longer break exclusives
and inexperienced, young new hires who couldn't find
their way to a copy of the federal budget.

Scoops are almost a non-item at The Washington Times
these days, throughout 2006 in particular - except the
recent couple of great front-page stories by national
religion writer Julia Duin about the exodus of
conservative Episcopal parishes from the national U.S.
Episcopal church because of the ordination of
practicing homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson of New
Hampshire and the New Age mumbo-jumbo being spouted by
the church's first woman national bishop, the Right
Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. (Conflict note: I'm a
lifelong Anglican and was confirmed in the Episcopal
Church in 1957.)

The TWT business side has been a disaster for years,
moribund advertising, circulation well under 100,000
daily - constantly less than the first day of
publication almost 25 years ago - and a yearly
money-loser despite more than $3-billion of cash
infused by founder Sun Myung Moon, the controversial
Korean religious evangelist and leader of the
worldwide Unification Church, who also controls a huge
global fishing production, mining, and manufacturing
business empire.

So what's the main cause of the dramatic decline of
the influence and respect for The Washington Times?

Mainly its top management: Washington Times Corp. CEO
Dong Moon Joo (who has anglicized his first name to
Douglas) and the paper's two top editors - Wesley
Pruden, scheduled to retire in five months, and Fran
Coombs managing editor, who Pruden publicly announced
in a TV interview would succeed him.

Pruden is an unreconstructed Confederate from Little
Rock, Arkansas, who still believes the South and
slavery were right and Lincoln was wrong in saving the
union. Pruden's father was a Baptist minister and
chaplain for the White Citizens Council in Arkansas'
worst KKK days of lynching and anti-black hatred.

Pruden is not a religious man or regular church member
himself, has been unmarried all his life except a
brief period in his young adulthood, and he hates
feminists and homosexuals. He left The Dow Jones
National Observer under a cloud before he came to The
Washington Times as a political reporter shortly after
its founding, as recently reported in a large
investigative story in The Nation magazine by reporter
Max Blumenthal.

Along with Coombs, who is the daily hands-on editor at
the newsroom at 3600 New York Avenue, N.E., until
night editors take over around 6 p.m., Pruden
micro-manages the paper's news and opinion content
mainly from home via computer. Pruden comes to 4 p.m.
editor news conferences, slipping in and out
reclusively, but few reporters in the newsroom know
him or have even met him personally.

Coombs has run the paper since Pruden became
editor-in-chief and elevated him to managing editor
following Coomb's quick rise from national editor,
when he was my boss and supervised some of our big
investigative hits in the 1980s and 1990s that brought
me four Pulitzer Prize nominations with Coombs'
blessing. (Another conflict note, as Coombs always
gave me positive yearly evaluation reports.)

However, as reported factually by The Nation's cover
piece in its October 9 edition, Coombs is a raging
racist who despises blacks, Jews, and Hispanic
immigrants, and looks down on women (unless they are
white and have nice tits and a well-shaped body).

From 18 years experience working with this man as a
close editor, I can say categorically that Coombs is a
micro-manager, has a very bad temper, abuses
employees, and looks down on women (except if he sees
one he says has "nice tits" or "nice body," or"nice
ass" or who he would like to have sex with, which he
often voiced in my persence, including about a
particular higher female editor who was his superior.)

Coombs very often voiced dislike for blacks, Jews,
Hispanics, privately in his office with me alone,
sometimes in the newsroom around the national desk,
and always when he got drunk at parties at his home
where he drank liquor and smoked marijuana.

At one party at his home after he had consumed copious
amounts of liquor and smoked marijuana, Coombs passed
out on the outside deck of his home and had to be
physically carried to bed by those remaining at the
party and his wife, Marian.

Pruden has supported Coombs' management style, his
prejudices, and abuse of employees that has led to the
brain-drain of reporters and editors over the past
decade and current newsroom morale decline that,
according to my frequent discussions with reporters,
editors, and production personnel at The Times I would
describe as bottom-of-the-barrel.

There is a corporate struggle under way between
Washington Times Corp. CEO Dong Monn {Douglas) Joo,
who is the Reverend Moon's Korean translator in many
venues and has been his gofer for many years, and the
reverend's youngest son, Preston Moon, an MBA graduate
of Harvard, who has been anointed by his father as
corporate successor.

Many sources tell me that Preston Moon wants to move
The Times into profitability as quickly as possible,
after decades of red ink, and boost the paper's
sagging advertising, circulation, and editorial staff
in order to move the paper back into possible
profitability, prestige, and a pacesetting position
again.

But the cabal of Dong Moon Joo, Wesley Pruden, and
Fran Coombs have apparently blocked Preston Moon to
this point, according to my sources, and it is
questionable whether the younger Moon has the cajonés
to finish what he started several months ago as he
asserted his executive role as CEO of News World
Communications, the Times parent company.

Preston Moon started the ball rolling to oust Joo as
CEO of The Washington Times Corp., force Pruden's
retirement no later that the 25th anniversary of The
Washington Times
on May 17, 2007, and hire a successor
to Pruden as TWT editor-in-chief other than Fran
Coombs.

There is a News World Communications selection
committee in place, appointed by Preston Moon, that
includes Arnaud deBorchgrave, former editor-in-chief
of The Washington Times, currently editor-at-large for
TWT and United Press International, Wesley Pruden, and
others.

The most recent indication of Preston Moon's possible
weakness was the recent forcible exit of Jonathan
Slevin as Joo's executive assistant at The Times.

Slevin was chief aide to the Times' actual founding
executive, Bo Hi Pak and first chief editor James
Whelan. Slevin, whose younger brother, Peter Slevin,
is a reporter for The Washington Post, is a veteran
journalist who left the Times for awhile and returned
in September 2005 to become Joo's top assistant after
Joo's former assistant, Tom McDevitt, another veteran
Moon devotee, left.

But things went awry when Pruden and Coombs mounted an
internal campaign to sabotage the company's successful
restart of its Insight Magazine as an online news and
opinion website.

Pruden and Coombs convinced Joo that the Insight
launch was a mistake that would hurt The Washington
Times
newspaper, while Slevin and Robert Morton,
another Moon loyalist who has run the highly
successful Washington Times weekly edition for many
years and was Insight's publisher, resisted the
anti-Insight Joo-Pruden-Coombs assault.

The internal civil war resulted in Morton's
resignation as publisher of Insight last summer and
Slevin's exit last week as Joo's executive assistant
and as a vice president of The Washington Times,
kisted on the masthead,

There was no public announcement or going-away party.
Slevin's name was just abruptly removed from the
masthead, although he told me personally by email that
he left voluntarily because he wanted to finish a
novel he's been writing for a long time and may return
to The Washington Times after the book is finished.

But people at the paper know what's really going on.
They say, accurately, that Joo has a horrible
tyrannical temper, woefully abuses employees, and
everyone (except Pruden and Coombs, who are similarly
maniacal) who work closely with Joo are afraid of him,
and many, especially on the business side of the
paper, actually express hatred of Joo.

Pruden and Coombs have coopted Joo and the Koreans by
telling them, and convincing them, that they have
President George W. Bush and his administration in
their pocket.

Joo and the Koreans like that purported respectability
at the White House, have fallen for the Pruden-Coombs
line (which is a lie), and Preston Moon has been
coopted by the Pruden-Coombs strategy to stave off his
efforts to assert control of the newspaper and
maintain their own control of the newspaper despite
ownership efforts to chart a different direction.

It's an unfolding story that bears watching.

The Washington Times was a feisty, dynamic,
pacesetting newspaper in the 1980s and 1990s. It is
going down the tubes under the current regime. Maybe
the dominant liberal media elite want that to happen
and the mainstream media are giving the
Joo-Pruden-Coombs cabal a pass regarding the reported
racism and other employee discrimination reported by
The Nation in its October 9 cover story.

For myself, having spent 21 enjoyable and very
challenging years as a top reporter for The Washington
Times
, I love the paper's people who made it a great
newspaper over the years - many of whom have left,
such as White House reporter Bill Sammon who recently
quit to go to The Washington Examiner and remains a
frequent voice on Fox TV News Channel.

I hate to see TWT go down the tubes. So in that sense,
I consider myself biased in favor of the Times'
success and against the people who it appears are
bringing it down. So I'm not against the Times - far
from it.

I am sad that, over the years, many highly compensated
executives on both the editorial and business side of
The Washington Times have taken advantage of huge
compensation packages they were given, but did not do
their best to move the product and the company
forward. Starting with Jim Whelan, the first
editor-in-chief, and the slew of advertising and
circulation chiefs who failed to build the paper but
took huge amounts of money.

And on the editorial side, a few selfish, maniacal,
highly-compensated leaders of the paper have been
allowed to rape it and practically destroy it, by
using it as their own ideological play-pen while
driving out good talent and micro-managing good
editors and reporters to the point they could not
provide their best creative product, despite the
billions poured into the company by the founder, who's
a little crazy himself - but aren't we all?