Independent Journal Review leadership leaked the decision to terminate reporter Benny Johnson to outside press before letting their own staff know, multiple sources familiar with the matter told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Axios, a D.C.-based media outlet, was the first to report Friday afternoon that former Independent Journal Review (IJR) creative director and now former reporter Benny Johnson was fired from the outlet.
“After over two years at IJR working in a variety of roles, we’ve made the decision to move forward in different directions. We wish Benny all the best ahead in his future opportunities,” IJR founder Alex Skatell wrote in an email to staff.
IJR staff was not aware of the decision until 4:23 p.m. Friday afternoon, after the story went live, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. The reporter at Axios first tweeted the 196-word story at 4:25 p.m.
— Sara Fischer (@sarafischer) October 20, 2017
Skatell and Johnson did not respond to request for comment from TheDCNF. The IJR founder and upper management have a history of siding with outside media over their own reporters, as Skatell allegedly did previously with Business Insider, and did publicly in interviews with another outside outlet.
TheDCNF also learned that top-level staffers at IJR leaked information to Business Insider in March for a hit piece on Johnson. In the piece, leaked emails showed the blind carbon-copy, or BCC, field, censoring it from readers. The only way the BCC field would be visible at all is if the sender, who was in leadership, sent a screengrab to the Business Insider reporter. One source, who like others in the story asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told TheDCNF the order to send the screengrab to Business Insider was given by Skatell.
Skatell also, notably, agreed with criticism regarding IJR’s exclusive interview with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a Fox News interview in March. He said his website “warranted” criticism from outside media because of the way it handled an exclusive with an administration official.
“I think we received a fair share of criticism and I think that was warranted,” Skattell told Howie Kurtz on Fox. “We are a newer organization and this was a big exclusive for us. We have a situation in the administration where they are now circumventing the press and they can do that through social media and they can actually build their own distribution channels.”
Kurtz appeared surprised at Skattell’s willingness to take the criticism.
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Editor’s Note: A 6:48 p.m. version of this article reported that Skatell leaked the staff email. This was clarified at 7:20 to “Independent Journal Review leadership.”
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