Just Like Old Times at the Washington Times? The Unification Church is in charge again at D.C.'s other daily newspaper, and things are going back to normal. Maybe.

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Photo by Darrow Montgomery

For almost 30 years, The Washington Times has devoted itself, so far as anyone inside or outside the paper could tell, to two main purposes: Carrying the banner of free-market conservative Republicans, preferably in outlandish and over-the-top style; and losing money, preferably in the same way.

Which is why the fashion in which the Times emerged from the wrenching purgatory of the past year on Tuesday was perhaps inevitable. As polls opened across the country, the Times staff found itself summoned to its much-depopulated headquarters at 3600 New York Avenue NE for a rare morning meeting, on the rare day they had all planned on showing up anyway, and the first time in more than two years that the gathering didn’t involve another round of beloved veterans getting purged. The Times was finally being saved, and by the same man who created the newspaper, the Rev. Sung Myung Moon, the Korean-born self-proclaimed Messiah who purports to be carrying out the mission Jesus botched by failing to conceive an heir.

“Why are you all gathered here today? Is there a vote going on here?,” Douglas Joo, a longtime loyal disciple of the Unification Church, joked to the staff assembled in a neglected small ballroom in the office building. But by this time everyone knew the good news: Moon had finally committed to reopening his deep pockets to the Times, meaning a restoration of the Moonie cash the newspaper had depended on before the Dark Age that began a year ago.

The Times only ever existed in the first place because of the near-bottomless benevolence of Moon, a convicted tax cheat whose church controls a vast global empire of profitable operations. And as angry conservatives marched to the polls around the country, restoring GOP rule on Capitol Hill, the Unification Church marched back into the newspaper’s offices, restoring Moon’s hardline disciples to rule on New York Avenue NE. Tuesday’s “sale” (to borrow the scare quotes that the paper used to use to refer to gay “marriage”), from Preston Moon, Moon’s Harvard MBA-educated eldest son, to a Delaware-based limited liability corporation led by Joo, who ran the paper back in the early 1990s and is known as “Mr. Joo” in the newsroom, will keep the paper in business.

Preston Moon had started taking control four years ago, with vague dreams of turning the Times into a more mainstream media enterprise that better suited his business education. But somewhere along the way he’d displeased another faction of the Unification Church; his rivals maneuvered to cut off the newspaper’s access to the $40 million or so in annual subsidies it needed, and it wasn’t long before Preston realized they weren’t coming back, and he was stuck paying salaries and expenses out of his own pocket. So a year ago, he fired all but a skeleton staff, axing three quarters of the newsroom just as Bob McDonnell won the governor’s race in Virginia, heralding the official beginning of the Republican comeback that reached an apogee Tuesday. Circulation was temporarily curtailed outside the immediate Capitol Hill area and for the time being, sports and photo, arguably the two most vital components of any profit-seeking newspaper’s Web traffic generation structure, were eliminated entirely. (The sports section closed days before Dan Snyder, the power-mad mogul behind another local institution, hired Mike Shanahan as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, a beat that had previously given the Times a hook with local readers who didn’t really care what the Communists were up to overseas or what nefarious deeds the Democrats were doing in the Capitol.)

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For the last year, the staff had toiled in a seemingly interminable limbo. Employees still showed up for work—somewhere other than the dreary newsroom, if they could help it—but they no longer feared the thousandth cut nor pondered the existential torment of a few strategy shifts ago. There was no “strategy” to speak of, or to shift, anymore. It seemed like the paper would just slide slowly into its eventual demise.

Meanwhile, the conservatives the Times had always championed were surging back toward power. “It’s been a bit of a missed opportunity, hasn’t it?” remarks Times editor in chief Sam Dealey very, very wryly. A former Time and U.S. News & World Report writer and fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution who got his start in political journalism as a research assistant to the late Robert Novak, Dealey took the job at the beginning of the year, “optimistic” the Moons and their lawyers would soon agree on how to re-open the cash spigot.

The Unification Church has a rich and well-recorded history of bailing out right-wing opinion leaders and their causes, from Jerry Falwell to Oliver North to direct-mail legend Richard Viguerie, in times of fiscal crisis. Why should it refuse a life preserver to its own vanity project? The church had never belonged to anything like the S&P 500; angry stockholders have never forced management to divest its money-hemorrhaging media asset or coaxed a Wall Street analyst or business reporter to ponder its baffling business model. If it had, the paper would never have survived long enough to become the subject of so many stories about its decline.

Our Readers Say

This article is pretty compelling. I've always been curious on what goes on at the Washington Times, its such a bizarre hybrid of reality based journalism and all out propaganda. If this bizarro broadsheet can be saved anything can be salvaged.
There is so much more to this story under Solomon's reign, including the pathalogical liar and women beater (there is a restraining order) they hired to run the editorial page, Richard Miniter. He was supposed to improve the page, moving it toward a more moderate and non-partisan page. It never really happened, partly becuase of the shake-up but mostly becuase the idiot rarely showed up to work before noon and blew the entire year's exspense budget in only a few months.
I would like to know more (including sources to read) about your assertion that the Moonies control three fisheries that control a substantial portion of the tuna trade.

The Center for Public Integrity's new report doesn't mention the Moonies in their new report on black market tuna. Probably because they were focused elsewhere, but it did strike me as an interesting coincidence that the same day, they announce that John Solomon, a former Washington Times editor, is now the new Executive Director at CPI. CPI has a good reputation and lots of integrity, so I don't believe their's any evidence to suggest they cut the Moonies out of the story. But it would be interesting to know if they have that big a chunk of the market, and put the question to them, why did they ignore that?
yeah, moonies control most of the tuna used in sushi. it's recorded in other investigations too
It's healthy for Washington and the country to have a conservative newspaper that stands in contrast to the Washington Times, much like it is healthy to have Fox news in contrast to CNN, MSNBC, etc. I don't care too much if the Moonies have cornered the tuna market. Just give me some perspective that offers another viewpoint on the news. That's all. Hey, most cities are stuck with a single newspaper anymore--and THAT situation is "cornering the tuna market" at the city level.
A few decades ago, 'conservative' principles included environmental conservation, economic austerity, non-intervention in personal matters, avoidance of foreign entanglements, military restraint, ethical-rational political debate, etc -- none of which can be seen in latter-day 'conservative' agendas. TWT, like most other reactionary-right media, is a 'conservative' rag only when viewed through an Orwellian lens.

And I avoid sushi.
Just one little thing. It's Sun Myung Moon not Sung Myung Moon. I mean, really, the name's been around a while.

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