Daily Beast boss Joanna Coles scrambles to recruit ex-CNN host Brian Stelter amid massive layoffs: sources (2024)

Newly-installed Daily Beast boss Joanna Coles is scrambling to hire boldface names like ousted CNN host Brian Stelter – as she sharpens the ax to slash more than a third of the staff, The Post has learned.

Coles — who was brought in by media mogul Barry Diller along with Disney bigwig Ben Sherwood last month to resuscitate the floundering news site — reached out to Stelter, the former anchor of CNN’s now-defunct “Reliable Sources,” to run the Beast’s media coverage, sources close to the situation told The Post on Tuesday.

Stelter, who has landed a special correspondent role at Vanity Fair since being dumped by CNN, declined to comment.

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Coles’ purported attempt to lure Stelter comes as the outlet confirmed Tuesday that it offered voluntary buyouts to its 37 unionized staffers.

A source close to The Beast said roughly 30% are expected to grab the lifeline before it expires in mid-June.

“You either take the buyout or risk being laid off, as Coles wants to create a newsroom in her own image,” the source said, noting that layoffs will “likely be even worse” than the 30% figure.

Coles and Sherwood hope to reap $1.5 million in cost savings from the union cuts, on top of the “millions” they are saving by reducing their footprint in the Frank Gehry-designed headquarters in Manhattan’s posh Chelsea neighborhood, another source said.

Management has proposed a buyout package that would give the average Beast employee who has been at the company between two and four years roughly three to four months of pay, the first source noted.

“The voluntary buyouts are part of a larger plan to reduce spending, grow revenue and put The Beast into a healthy and sustainable financial position,” a Beast spokesperson told The Post.

“Everyone in digital media is facing tough choices. These buyouts are especially hard because we know some talented and valued colleagues will decide to leave next month. Throughout this process, we remain fully committed to The Beast’s core mission — great independent journalism that makes a difference.”

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The union for The Beast declined to comment.

The insider added that the heads of the non-unionized senior editors are also on the chopping block, including Daily Beast editor in chief Tracy Connor, as The Post previously reported.

A second source said that job cuts will also hit the publication’s business side in the coming months.

The rep would not comment on Connor’s future or that of other section heads.

Coles, 61, was named chief creative and content officer after Diller gave her and Sherwood a minority stake in the tabloid-inspired site.

Since grabbing the reins, the British-born editor has intimidated staffers with pointed questions about who they are and how they want to cover their beats, sparking anxiety over the possibility that they’d be replaced by new reporters with better ideas, sources told The Post.

Employees are walking a tightrope in trying to please Coles — who is swanning around the office, the first source said. Meanwhile, Connor and executive editor Katie Baker have been laying low.

“While Coles remains rather jovial and happy in the office, others feel as if the world is ending as they face the prospect of unemployment,” the source said.

“No one has any idea who they should report to…Are Katie and Tracy still alive?”

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Ruffled by the changes and by Coles’ sometimes cheeky editorial direction — which includes covering lighter fare like Meghan Markle’s jam — a handful of journalists ran for the exits, including Washington DC bureau chief Matt Fuller.

The staff was further demoralized by Coles’ announcement that the company would shrink its presence on the fifth floor of the sail-shaped IAC building, turning the newsroom into a “bullpen.”

Coles, a former Guardian editor and Hearst exec, has hired Martin Pengelly, a longtime journalist at the UK-based publication, who in turn has tried to recruit other staffers, including reporter Hugo Lowell.

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Sources said Coles is also oddly obsessed with bringing on Hollywood writers to help punch up the site’s humor and culture coverage.

She tapped Jill Twiss, a former writer for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” who penned a listicle on former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, entitled: “7 More Embarrassing Things Rudy’s Done Than Peeing on Zoom,” among other things.

She also hired Nell Scovell, a comedy writer who created the TV series “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” to write listicles, including “5 Rock Solid Theories on What Went Wrong for J.Lo and Ben,” as well as some opinion pieces on former President Donald Trump.

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The tension in the office has seemingly filtered down to Connor’s dog, Pearl, who has had “accidents” in the pet-friendly office.

“Tracy’s dog crapped in the office,” a well-placed source said. “It triggered a complaint from a worker in the facilities department and now all dogs need to be on leashes!”

There soon may be an edict issued that bans dogs from the office, the source added.

Daily Beast boss Joanna Coles scrambles to recruit ex-CNN host Brian Stelter amid massive layoffs: sources (2024)

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