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Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalists call for leadership change amid publisher scrutiny

CNN  —  Two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists at The Washington Post went on the record late Wednesday, calling for leadership change at the storied newspaper as questions swirl over the integrity of its new publisher and chief executive, Will Lewis. “I don’t know a single person at the Post who thinks the current situation with the publisher and supposed new editor can stand,” David Maraniss, an associate editor who has worked at The Post for nearly five decades and won two Pulitzer Prizes at the newspaper, wrote in a candid Facebook post. “There might be a few, but very very few.” Maraniss also zinged Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of The Post who installed Lewis, writing that he is “not of and for the Post or he would understand.” Scott Higham, another Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at The Post, echoed Maraniss’ call for Lewis to exit the newspaper. “Will Lewis needs to step down for the good of The Post and the public,” Higham replied in a comment on Maraniss’ post. “He has lost the newsroom and will never win it back.” Spokespersons for Bezos and The Post did not immediately comment. The backlash from The Post’s journalists comes after serious questions were raised about Lewis, who has been the subject of several explosive reports in recent days scrutinizing his journalistic integrity. The New York Times reported over the weekend that, in his Fleet Street days, Lewis assigned an article that was based on stolen phone records. And The Post itself reported in a 3,000-word front page expose Sunday that a “thief” who used deceptive tactics to obtain private material had ties with Lewis’ hand-picked incoming top editor, Robert Winnett. The stories, which landed like a one-two punch in The Post’s newsroom, followed reports that Lewis tried to suppress stories at The Post and NPR about his role cleaning up Rupert Murdoch’s UK phone hacking scandal, when he served as a lieutenant to the right-wing media mogul. In response to the reports earlier this month, Lewis initially lashed out, criticizing his own media reporters and attacking veteran NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, who he referred to as an “activist, not a journalist.” Lewis later sent a memo to staffers, striking a notably different tone. But the note failed to quell the growing disapproval within the newspaper’s ranks. Inside The Post’s newsroom, morale has plunged as staffers express alarm over Lewis’ conduct and worries over the future direction of the newspaper under his leadership. Interviews with nearly a dozen Post staffers and others familiar with the internal dynamics of the newspaper last week revealed a workforce that has grown increasingly dismayed by the situation, with some searching for work elsewhere. Jeff Bezos attends "The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power" World Premiere in Leicester Square on August 30, 2022 in London, England. Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images Related article Jeff Bezos breaks his silence about turmoil at The Washington Post Sensing the turmoil, Bezos on Tuesday sent a memo to top leaders at The Post, expressing support for maintaining high journalistic standards at his newspaper. “You have my full commitment on maintaining the quality, ethics, and standards we all believe in,” Bezos wrote. But the memo did little to quell the growing rebellion in the newsroom. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the professor and senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, told CNN on Monday that Bezos should dismiss Lewis. Sonnenfeld, who has advised US presidents and scores of corporate leaders, said that if he were advising Bezos, he would tell him Lewis has “lost legitimacy to lead” and it’s time to “clean the house.” “This is a tragic meltdown of the conscience of American journalism bringing shame to the Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee, Marty Baron legacy of collaboration, courage and integrity,” Sonnenfeld said. “Bezos must recruit an accomplished, experienced editor whom journalists admire and trust.”