British editor backs out of top Washington Post job

The Washington Post building
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British journalist Robert Winnett will no longer join the Washington Post as editor and instead remain at the Daily Telegraph in London, after controversy at the US newspaper over his appointment.

Telegraph editor Chris Evans told staff the news in an email seen by the BBC, writing that Winnett, the Telegraph's deputy editor, is "a talented chap and their loss is our gain".

Winnett's decision follows weeks of anger in the Washington Post newsroom over leadership changes put in place by publisher Sir Will Lewis, another Briton and the former Telegraph editor.

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times have published investigations into Sir Will and Winnett, and their alleged past practices at UK newspapers.

The criticism includes Sir Will, when he was editor of the Telegraph when Winnett's team at the paper exposed the MP expenses scandal, paying £110,000 for a disk containing the expenses files. Sir Will told the Leveson Inquiry the paper had taken care to ensure it was not in breach of the law.

But the payment has attracted criticism in the US media.

Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has been trying to reinvigorate the storied paper, which has shed readership and endured financial losses.

As part of that effort he appointed Sir Will, who became the Post's publisher and CEO in January.

Earlier this month, Sally Buzbee - the first woman to lead the Post as editor - abruptly announced her departure amid a hastily announced plan to restructure the newsroom.

Sir Will had told staff he intended to split the newsroom into three separate divisions run by editors who report to him - a core news-reporting division, an opinion section, and a new division focused on service and social media journalism intended to attract interest from a broader audience.

Buzbee - who was to be put in charge of that new division - is said to have disagreed with the plan.

The New York Times also reported that she had clashed with Sir Will prior to her exit over whether to publish a story about the long-running phone hacking scandal at UK tabloid newspapers and a related civil case brought by Prince Harry.

Sir Will reportedly told Buzbee he did not believe the case merited the Post's coverage, but she chose to publish the article - which mentioned Sir Will by name - anyway.

A spokesperson for Lewis has denied he pressured her.

In 2020 the ex-general manager of News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of the News of the World and the Sun, was accused of aiding the concealment and destruction of millions of emails relating to phone hacking at the papers.

Mr Lewis said at time the allegations against him were "completely untrue".

Matt Murray, a former Wall Street Journal editor, has been named as her temporary replacement through the November presidential election.

Sir Will had announced Winnett's hiring as Buzbee's permanent replacement less than three weeks ago.

In a note "with regret" to Post staff on Friday, he wrote: “Rob has my greatest respect and is an incredibly talented editor and journalist.

"The leadership at The Telegraph Media Group are reaffirming his continued role as deputy editor.”

He said that Murray will now continue in the role "until after the US elections and also carry forward planning and leading the third newsroom".

Sir Will added that a search would now begin for the editor who will lead "core coverage".