Founding editor-in-chief of investigative news agency Exaro News Mark Watts has been sacked.
Watts was facing redundancy as part of plans to cut 50 per cent from the agency’s editorial budget, but Press Gazette understands he has been dismissed and is now appealing.
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It comes after he wrote a series of tweets about his expected departure in June in which he said colleagues’ jobs could also be at risk.
Watts told Press Gazette: “Exaro’s management made clear to me during the course of meetings about my position that they would be making a cut of at least 25 per cent to the casuals budget.
“But they were working from a baseline figure that was 20 per cent lower than in reality, amounting to a 40 per cent cut overall. I was merely reflecting what I was told by management and what their intentions were.”
He added that losing the editor position at Exaro would result in the agency running “less challenging stories”.
Former Guardian Westminster correspondent David Hencke is now joint Exaro head of news with Mark Conrad. The pair will run the investigative team, with Hencke having the final say on editorial decisions.
Savings from Watts’ salary, and a move from offices off Fleet Street to a shared office owned by parent company New Sparta, mean no further redundancies are expected.
Hencke, who was named Political Journalist of the Year at Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards in 2012, said: “We are open for business.
“We are going to continue the same challenging stories that we have done and we are also broadening our coverage by returning to where we started to include investigative pieces around Whitehall and picking up on stories that are often missed by the national press.”
Conrad has worked at the agency for four years. Both Hencke and Conrad are freelances who together work the equivalent of one full-time employee. Exaro employs six editorial staff in total.
Exaro has provided widespread coverage in recent years about allegations various public figures were involved in a “VIP paedophile” ring in London.
In March this year, the Met Police closed the Operation Midland investigation into many of the allegations aired by Exaro with no charges made.