Inside TWT’s Afternoon Ballroom Meeting

TWT journalists and staffers retreated to the TWT ballroom today for an afternoon meeting with President Thomas McDevitt and their new editor, Ed Kelley.

Reaction to Kelley was a mixed bag. There’s concern he has no Washington experience. He spoke of his family in glowing terms — but this is Washington, and no one was wowed by it. One of our spies noted that there is concern of putting someone in charge of news and editorial breaks down the wall. In the meeting, Kelley was careful to always speak of the long-time, valued conservative opinion page and the difference with the news side which he insisted does stories that readers don’t get anywhere else. Those who listened gathered that the newcomer wouldn’t be intruding either a conservative imprint on news nor thrusting a liberal viewpoint into editorial.

Kelley’s physical description: He’s tall, with a half smile, glasses and Newt Gingrich-level big gray hair. His accent was stronger when he spoke to the group then when he spoke individually to people after.

Another spy got good vibes from Kelley and seemed to take to his family spiel: “Seems like he’s going to bring leadership to the paper, just comes from a pretty impressive newspaper background. Seemed like a nice guy, a good family guy. He came to the morning editorial meeting today. He seems to share the paper’s values. He’s like a serious news person. It all looks good.”

McDevitt spoke with the giant white TWT seal made of molding behind him. He began by asking who had been newly hired since January 1. About a third of the people raised their hands. He discussed new multimedia changes on the horizon as well as remodeling the building.

A finance officer brought up TWT rival WaPo, saying that “only 14 percent of WaPo revenue comes from the newspaper, 60 percent from education programs such as Kaplan and now Kaplan has problems. Would expect to see their belt tightening — we only compete with them in local print, they don’t do national multimedia like we do.”

Many noticed Kelley’s strong Oklahoma twang. He remarked that TWT is like a family and expressed gratitude for the employees who did the jobs of 10 people to keep the place afloat. He spoke of the brutal cuts that happened at TWT before it was revamped and said he’s impressed with the commitment from those who stuck it out for the mission of the organization.

Kelley ended his first meeting, saying, “I want all of you to look at me as an ally and trusted colleague.” The response was polite applause.