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Ex-Washington Post Reporter to Lead a Rival
Monday February 11, 2008 11:38 pm ET
By SARAH ABRUZZESE

WASHINGTON — For more than 25 years, The Washington Times has positioned itself against its more liberal cross-town rival, The Washington Post.

But for its new executive editor, The Times tapped a Post alumnus, John F. Solomon, 41, who took control of the paper two weeks ago. Mr. Solomon, a longtime investigative reporter, was a surprise choice.

“John was a step above and the right fit for our newsroom,” said Thomas P. McDevitt, the president of The Washington Times LLC, which owns the newspaper, adding that Mr. Solomon had the characteristics that the company was looking for as it sought to graduate from its founding in the cold-war era “to meet the needs of a far more dynamic media environment and even more dangerous period for the world.”

For many casual observers, The Times has never entirely left the cold-war era. The paper, which is owned by News World Communications, a wing of the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is best-known for its right-wing editorial stance that upholds its core values of freedom, faith, family and service.

Mr. Solomon describes himself as a “down-the-middle journalist” who will take the practices that he has used during his career to the paper. He worked as a national reporter at The Washington Post for a year and before that for 20 years in a variety of jobs at The Associated Press.

“The standard of excellence that will be here at The Washington Times includes fairness, balance, accuracy and precision. Those are four nonnegotiable pillars of journalistic excellence,” he said.

He also said he was not ideological, though when he worked at The Associated Press and The Washington Post there were charges from the blogosphere that he treated Democrats unfairly. “I pride myself that people look at my body of work and not be able to tell whether I am a Democrat or Republican,” he said.

While The Washington Times has long struggled to sell copies in Washington — its circulation hovers around 100,000, about one-sixth that of The Post — its Web traffic is booming. It has pierced the top 30 news Web sites many times in the last 18 months. The company has high hopes for the site, which will undergo an extensive redesign to be introduced in May.

Mr. Solomon, who previously headed the multimedia investigative team for The Associated Press’s Washington bureau, will oversee all news for The Washington Times. In his first two weeks, Mr. Solomon said readers have seen “lots of good examples of hard-hitting investigative, probing news stories.”

Mr. Solomon said in an interview that the paper would continue its commitment to strong metro coverage. “This newspaper has a rich tradition in finding the stories that others have missed — to break news, to be scrappy,” he said.

While at The Post, Mr. Solomon’s work drew criticism inside and outside the paper. He wrote a front-page article that named the purchasers of John Edwards’s Washington home, who were a couple who had founded an assisted-living housing chain and were cooperating with the federal government in an inquiry into the company’s business practices.

The Post’s ombudsman, Deborah Howell, wrote that she did not see a financial connection between the sellers and purchasers. “It seemed like a ‘gotcha’ without the gotcha,” she wrote.

His work there also won praise. Jeff Leen, the assistant managing editor for investigative news at The Washington Post, worked with Mr. Solomon and CBS on a collaborative series about the F.B.I. on forensic testing. Mr. Leen said he was partly responsible in getting Mr. Solomon to come to The Post.

“He is an equal opportunity investigator. As far as I can see he doesn’t have an ideological bias,” he said. “I can’t say enough good about the guy. I think he is a very outstanding journalist.”



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