Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel is reportedly set to join journalist Ben Smith’s digital media startup Semafor — months after he was suspended for an off-color retweet that ignited an internal war at the newspaper.

Weigel is one of a “number of big hires” whom Semafor is “close to announcing.” He is expected to join the outlet after the 2022 midterm elections, a report said Monday night. Weigel has worked at the Washington Post since 2015.

Sources told the Daily Beast’s Confider newsletter that Weigel has grumbled to friends about his intention to leave the Washington Post since his suspension earlier this year.

Representatives for Semafor and the Washington Post did not immediately return requests for comment. Weigel could not immediately be reached for comment.

Weigel was suspended without pay for a month in June after he retweeted a post from a user who said, “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”

The retweet prompted an outraged public response by Weigel’s colleague at the time, Felicia Sonmez, who considered the post sexist and offensive.

Felicia Sonmez
Ex-Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez was vocally critical of Weigel’s retweet.
Twitter / @feliciasonmez
An ad seen for Semafor.
An ad for Semafor.

Weigel removed the retweet and apologized, but Sonmez continued to bash the paper’s response to the situation and feud with other reporters who pushed back against her public tirade. Sonmez was eventually fired over her role in the saga.

In June, the Washington Post unveiled updated social media guidelines reminding its employees that any online posts “must not harm the editorial integrity or journalistic reputation of The Post.”

Semafor is expected to launch this fall. The outlet was co-founded by Ben Smith, a former New York Times columnist, and Justin Smith, the former boss of Bloomberg Media.

The global startup has secured $25 million in outside funding and plans to generate revenue through a mix of live events, advertising and subscriptions, according to multiple reports.

The Daily Beast reported that Semafor had also attempted to recruit fellow political reporters Maggie Haberman of the New York Times and Jonathan Swan of Axios but “came away empty.”

Weigel’s departure would mark another setback for paper, which has struggled through mounting internal turmoil in recent months.

The Jeff Bezos-owned broadsheet is set to lose money this year following years of profitability, the New York Times reported, citing sources familiar with its finances.

The company’s revenue purportedly plummeted about 15% to approximately $70 million through the first half of 2022, while its subscriber count has fallen below the 3 million paid digital subscribers it boasted in 2020.

Ben Smith founded the startup Semafor.
Ben Smith founded the startup Semafor.
Getty Images

Sources told the New York Times that Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan has discussed potentially cutting 100 positions to slash costs — either by freezing backfills on existing roles or through other methods.

A spokesperson pushed back on the story, noting the report on its financial situation was incomplete and that the Washington Post was not planning to cut its headcount.

The report also stated that Bezos has dialed back his involvement at the Washington Post since the COVID-19 pandemic began, though he is still “weighing in during budgeting season and participating in calls.”

The Washington Post said it was “absolutely false” to suggest Bezos was losing interest in the outlet, according to the Times.


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Tyler Cowan