The Markup, a forthcoming non-profit news website, started to crumble in plain view on Tuesday, as multiple staffers announced their resignations following the ouster of the organization’s editor-in-chief.
Julia Angwin, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who co-founded The Markup and served as its editor-in-chief, tweeted on Tuesday morning that she had been “forced out” of the organization.
The news of Angwin’s ouster, which was first reported by The New York Times, prompted at least five of the website’s seven editorial staff writers to announce their resignations. Those announcing their resignations were Jon Keegan, Lauren Kirchner, Adrianne Jeffries, Leon Yin, and Surya Mattu.
Angwin said her departure was tied to a conflict about the publication’s mission with Sue Gardner, The Markup’s executive director and another co-founder.
According to The Markup’s website, the publication was founded to be a “nonpartisan, nonprofit newsroom that produces meaningful data-centered journalism that illuminates how powerful institutions are using technology in ways that impact people and society.” It has been scheduled to launch in July.
In a Monday letter to Craig Newmark, the Craigslist founder who donated $20 million to help fund the organization, Angwin wrote that Gardner was “seeing to change the mission of the newsroom to one based on advocacy against tech companies.”
“She argues The Markup needs to be a ’cause’ rather than a ‘publication,'” Angwin wrote. “During job interviews with reporter candidates, she asks them for their ‘take’ on tech companies and rates their candidacy based on how negative she thinks they are (more negative = good, to her).”
Angwin added in her letter to Newmark that Gardner had “urged” her to “run articles with headlines such as ‘Facebook is a dumpster fire.'”
Newmark did not respond on Tuesday to requests from CNN Business for comment.
Markup: No change in mission
But in a statement provided by a spokesperson to CNN Business, Gardner said “any assertion that we have shifted our mission is simply not the case.”
“The Markup was founded in 2018 to produce data-driven, rigorously fact-checked reporting about the effects of technology on society,” Gardner said. “We said when The Markup was first announced that we intended to ‘hold the powerful to account, raise the cost of bad behavior, and spur reforms.’ That mission has not changed. Our goals, purpose, and focus have not shifted. Our reporting priorities haven’t changed, and won’t.”
Gardner added that the organization would not “speak to the specific details” of Angwin’s departure” because “as a matter of practice, we don’t talk about internal HR issues.”
“This was, simply, a personnel matter about leadership and management, and while we have worked for months together to try to find another role for Julia that is commensurate with her experience and stature as a journalist, unfortunately, Ms. Angwin refused to consider any title or role other than Editor-in-Chief,” Gardner said. “We appreciate her role in co-founding and helping to guide the initial phase of The Markup’s development.”
Gardner said that Jeff Larson, a co-founder who served as managing editor, would replace Angwin as the outlet’s top editor. In a series of tweets, Larson said he was “humbled and excited” to take on the role.
Larson and Gardner held an all-staff meeting on Tuesday to discuss Angwin’s departure. The editorial staff, according to one person at the meeting, was overwhelmingly upset with the decision. After the meeting ended, the five staffers tweeted about their resignation.
Gardner told CNN Business that “there are multiple hires, editorial and otherwise, in process” and she expects to “welcome and announce those new staff soon.”
In a letter sent to Newmark ahead of Angwin’s dismissal, the entire editorial staff wrote that they wanted to “express our complete confidence and support” for her as editor-in-chief.
“We joined on to The Markup because we believe in Julia Angwin’s work,” the letter said. “During our time here, we have benefited from her professional management style, and her effectiveness as both a manager and an editor. We are all inspired by her passion for investigative journalism, her instincts for news and her strong ethical and moral compass.”