In the dimming glow of The Messenger’s legacy, a troubling narrative emerges, painting a picture of a workplace culture marred by allegations of verbal abuse and discriminatory remarks. At the center of this storm is Richard Beckman, the former president of the now-defunct news organization, accused by sources of using derogatory language, including an antigay slur directed at the editor in chief, Dan Wakeford. Beckman’s vehement denials do little to quell the disquiet stirred by these accusations, leaving a void where Wakeford’s response might have shed further light.
A Pattern of Behavior
The allegations extend beyond a single incident, suggesting a pattern of behavior that troubled the newsroom’s environment. Beckman’s choice of words, referring to another senior editor as a “little weasel,” and his overall demeanor reportedly led to unrest among the staff. This discontent reached the ears of Jimmy Finkelstein, the owner, who despite being informed of Beckman’s conduct, chose not to act. Finkelstein himself is not without criticism; reports suggest he engaged in belittling and aggressive behavior, particularly targeting female staff members and demonstrating a distinct lack of support for the editorial direction spearheaded by deputy editor Michelle Gotthelf and others.
The Fall of The Messenger
The backdrop to this internal discord is the precipitous fall of The Messenger. Positioned as a nonpartisan beacon in the tumultuous sea of media, it promised a centrist viewpoint but struggled to navigate the harsh economic realities facing new ventures in journalism. The closure of the site, abrupt and unceremoniously revealed to employees through external news sources, underscores the precarious nature of media startups. The lack of severance and immediate cessation of health benefits added insult to injury, prompting a class-action lawsuit against the organization for its failure to provide adequate notice as mandated by law.
This saga of The Messenger, from its lofty aspirations to its untimely demise, serves as a cautionary tale. It highlights the challenges media startups face, not just in economic terms, but in fostering a respectful and inclusive workplace culture. As the industry continues to evolve, the lessons from The Messenger’s downfall remain poignant reminders of the values essential to journalism’s integrity and the well-being of those who steward its mission.