As anticipated, now that it has gotten back its Moonie line of credit, the Washington Times is also getting back some missing sections and staff.
The lady who answered the phone when Das Krapital asked to speak to “someone in charge over there”, for one, told us she was still getting acclimated because it was her “first day” on the job. But was it the first time she had ever worked for the Washington Times, we wanted to know?
No, she confessed. She had worked there before she got fired, along with everyone else on staff including former Times president Douglas Joo, last November.
Now of course, Douglas Joo is president again, and at 11 a.m. he told about a hundred assembled Times staffers that they would soon be reacquainting themselves with their long lost sports, metro and entertainment sections. (And possibly, a Sunday paper? It wasn’t mentioned, but why not.)
The speech was light on details and only lasted about seven minutes, but few expected much in the way of “whither the media” pontification out of Joo, a longtime Moon disciple who served as the Times’ president for nearly two decades before he was abruptly sacked last November in a bizarre coup orchestrated by Jonathan Slevin, the paper’s onetime corporate communications director and another longtime Moonie who was married by the Rev. Moon in a 1982 mass wedding at Madison Square Garden. (At the time, Slevin had the blessings of Preston Moon, the eldest son of Rev. Sung Myung Moon, who suspected Joo of being behind the abrupt curtailment of the Unification Church subsidy to the Times, but within a few months Slevin had also been ousted.)
The Church has traditionally had fairly hands-off relationship with the Times newsroom or its editorial strategy, and that autonomy that was a hallmark of Joo’s previous tenure at the Times until about 2006, when Preston Moon began raising concerns about the hard right-wing editorial bent of then-executive editor Wesley Pruden and his purportedly racist deputy Fran Coombs and trying to pull his weight. Preston Moon eventually got his way, wooing former Washington Post reporter John Solomon to overhaul the newspaper in 2008, but those efforts began to quickly deteriorate amidst the backdrop of an assortment of escalating intra-Moonie factional feuds that culminated in the Times essentially getting its Church-backed credit cards turned off.
How big a role if any Joo (who is known as “Mr. Joo” in the newsroom) played in last year’s abrupt withdrawal of the Church subsidy remains unclear, but both are officially back now, andstaffers say he seems to want the Times to essentially return to oldtimes again—meaning the executive editor will probably have a certain amount of discretion over what to do with the new infusion of capital, it’s just not entirely clear who that will be.
The current editor Sam Dealey is well-liked in the newsroom for ushering the Times through such an unfathomably dark year, but he is also relatively young. Aside from Pruden, who was by many accounts happily retired well before he officially retired, Joo was never known to have much of a relationship with anyone on the editorial side of the Times or for that matter, the rest of the media. The Joos, who live in Arlington, are said to be friends from Korea with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, but he has a job and beyond that they are not known to get out all that much. (According to the book Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Right and Built an American Kingdom, Joo’s wife was once quoted saying, “I do not know about the outside world.”)
So as ever with the ever-engrossing Times, there are still more questions than answers at this point. But wherever their money comes from, it is back, for now.