U.S. News & World Report Axes Its “I Team”

Another investigative reporting team bites the dust.

By: Harry Jaffe

U.S. News & World Report this week disbanded its “I Team,” which had been a key part of the newsweekly since the 1980s.

On Tuesday Mort Zuckerman’s weekly magazine offered buyouts to legal-affairs correspondent Chitra Ragavan, national-security reporter Linda Robinson, and investigative reporter David E. Kaplan, who writes the “Bad Guys” blog.

“We had to make the decision to scale back on some of our long-form journalism,” says U.S. News editor Brian Kelly. “Unfortunately, that meant we had to offer buyouts to some very talented people.”

Ed Pound, one of the most talented and experienced members of the investigative unit, remains on the job at the moment (he did not respond to phone calls).

Kelly, who took the weekly’s reins from Brian Duffy in March, described the reporting changes as part of a reorganization that included hiring people for the magazine’s Web site.

Web sites are sucking money from the print staffs of all three newsweeklies. Time has trimmed its reporting and editing staff by about 50 people. Of the three newsweeklies, Newsweek appears to be the most stable.

Given the changes that have forced some venerable news operations to make cutbacks, the question of whether all three newsweeklies can survive is up the air. Judging from this week’s changes, U.S. News will continue to throw its resources and its future into mining the Web for its two brands: “News You Can Use” and rankings of colleges, high schools, and hospitals.

Without Ragavan, Robinson, and Kaplan, U.S. News is ceding national-security and investigative journalism to other news organizations.

Chitra Ragavan came to U.S. News from National Public Radio in 1998. According to her Web site, she authored cover stories on “crooks, spies, terrorists, war criminals, corrupt congressmen, whistleblowers, and other assorted characters.”

Senior writer Linda Robinson wrote about national security and foreign affairs. A Nieman Fellow in 2000–2001, she wrote Masters of Chaos, a book about the Army Special Forces. Robinson becomes a contributing editor. U.S. News will publish stories that are part of the reporting for her upcoming book: Battle for Baghdad.

David Kaplan has covered terrorism, organized crime, and intelligence for years. He’s also coauthor of the book Yakuza, about Japanese organized crime.

Kaplan will continue to write his "Bad Guys" blog.