The Washington Times has bulked up security at the building and hired new guards. Security in the main lobby last week shifted from one guard to three, with another patrolling the parking lot. The reasoning? Sources tell FishbowlDC it’s the impending layoffs. The company consistently beefs up security before layoffs, a TWT insider insists — one of those little details employees notice when they know bad news is coming.
“The last time they did it, they beefed up,” said a former TWT editor on condition of anonymity. “One thing I noticed before, is security would do a building walk through once a day. When it was the weeks before the layoffs, they were walking around the building multiple times a day. It was another reminder that we were waiting for the axe to fall.”
On Nov. 28, Editor David Jackson sent out a company-wide email saying layoffs were imminent but provided few details. See WaPo Erik Wemple’s report here. In his letter, Jackson announced that there would be a “reduction” and “reorganization” of staff. He wrote, “Reductions in staffing will be a one-time only process. We do not intend to go through this again.” Hardly words of comfort. Ever since that email went out, the newsroom has been on edge waiting for the gauntlet to fall, the noose to tighten, the Grim Reaper to appear (take your pick of terrible metaphors).
If increased security wasn’t indication enough, sources say TWT management has ramped up its surveillance of employees — checking phone logs, monitoring people’s emails and tracking forwarded emails to try to plug leaks. “Everyone is texting because they are afraid to use email,” an employee told FishbowlDC. “It’s complete panic mode. Everyone is trying to stay out of the system. You don’t know when it’s going happen or who it’s going to happen to.”
The aforementioned former editor above also found his office in slight disarray on numerous occasions. Papers would be moved around. Drawers opened. “Emails that I was sure I had disappeared from my email box,” the former editor said. “Seemed like people were in there looking for something. It’s that kind of a paranoid place. Disagreement was seen as a sign of disloyalty.”
Some journalists have been warned against forwarding emails…
including from their TWT accounts to private email addresses as email forwards are being tracked to hunt down leakers. As with most workplaces, they are also being told to be careful using TWT email for anything personal or to discuss management because email is being monitored. The worst of it: Sources say Chairman Tom McDevitt has asked for phone records to check who has been talking to whom.
Understandably, journalists in TWT‘s newsroom are afraid to speak on the record, so we’re giving them cover so we can report what is happening from their point of view without them fearing for their jobs. From inside TWT‘s newsroom: “The company hasn’t told us anything since announcing layoffs last month. Management just left their whole staff hanging in a panic before the holidays. Everyone feels like a target. We are all papering the town with our resumes.” And this: “Employees are all like abused children, afraid to speak up and jumpy at the littlest things.”
We reached out to Jackson, McDevitt and Chief Operating Officer John Martin for comment. So far: silence. Ever since they scrapped their spokesperson a few months ago, we’re told their typical public relations strategy is to ignore until the storm blows over. Jackson did speak to WaPo‘s Wemple on Nov. 28. By no fault of Wemple’s, Jackson provided no new details or real information.