The New York Observer had a management shakeup Friday, with both the paper’s editor-in-chief, Ben Robinson, and executive editor, Adam Laukhuf, leaving the company,
“Ben Robinson is no longer with the organization and has stepped down as Editor-In-Chief of Observer. At this time, Observer is not replacing the Editor-In-Chief position, and will continue to execute our content strategy with our current editorial team along with continued executive direction,” Observer Media president James Karklins told TheWrap in a statement Saturday.
“With our strong team in place and growing authoritative brand, Observer will continue to lead the conversation with its coverage of power players and premium thought leader content,” Karklins concluded.
Robinson joined the paper in February 2018 and had been on the job for less than a year. The statement did not address the departure of Laukhuf, who TheWrap independently confirmed was also out.
By Saturday the masthead was updated with the paper’s former Audience Engagement Manager, Mary von Aue, assuming the new title of Editorial Director. The move strongly suggests a new focus on SEO based content from the paper going forward.
Once a must-read NYC society paper, documenting the Big Apple’s biggest events and parties, the New York Observer has fallen on hard times. In recent years it has been buffeted by digital headwinds and declining readership. In 2006, the paper was acquired by Jared Kushner, but his leadership has been sharply criticized by former employees, including past editor-in-chiefs Kyle Pope and Elizabeth Spiers.
“Kushner didn’t remotely care about the content of the paper,” wrote Pope for Columbia Journalism Review in 2017, who said Kushner viewed the paper more as a vehicle for settling scores and advancing his own business interests.
“I came to believe that Kushner wanted the Observer to succeed not because he believed in what it was, but because he needed it as a bullhorn for his own business interests,” he said.
Another former editor-in-chief, Ken Kurson, has been publicly accused of sexual harassment by a former employee. In 2016 the paper discontinued its print distribution, to focus on digital. After Kushner’s father-in-law, Donald Trump, became president, Jared stepped away from the paper, and entrusted it to his brother-in-law, Joseph Meyer, now listed as the Observer’s Chairman and publisher.