Houston Landing, a high-profile nonprofit digital startup that has been beset by turmoil for much of 2024, is at it again. John Tedesco, a top editor at the Landing, was fired Wednesday, according to the Houston Landing NewsGuild, which, on Twitter/X, called it “another senseless decision that comes after nearly two months of disorganization.”

It was two months ago that a new editor-in-chief, Manny García, and a new managing editor, Angel Rodriguez, arrived. But according to the union, the new executive team has been virtually silent, adding, “We haven’t been given any clear direction.” As for Tedesco, the union has this to say: “Tedesco wasn’t an eligible union member, but he embodies everything we fight for: empathy, kindness, and firmness. We wouldn’t be here without him. Houston Landing wouldn’t be here without him.”

What a mess. In January, editor-in-chief Mizanur Rahman and top investigative reporter Alex Stuckey were fired by CEO Peter Bhatia, who — according to a memorable Washington Post article (free link) — responded with a classic “Do you know who I am?” when he was challenged on his plan to have the business and editorial operations work together more closely. (In fairness, Bhatia is a legendary journalist in his own right. But also in fairness, there’s a reason that keeping editorial and business apart is sometimes referred to as “the separation of church and state.”)

At the time that Rahman and Stuckey were fired, Tedesco said on Twitter that he told Bhatia he disagreed with the decision. Bhatia, in turn, pledged to keep Tedesco, and perhaps move him to a different position if the new editor didn’t want him as his deputy.

That different position turned out to be out the door.

As Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton tweeted: “They’ll teach a case study about @Hou_Landing management someday, and it will not be a positive case.”

Houston Landing, founded in 2023, received $20 million in grants from the likes of the Knight Foundation and the American Journalism Project, as well as wealthy locals. As smaller news startups express frustration over being snubbed by Big Philanthropy, the Landing stands out as a large, well-funded site whose good work is being undermined and overshadowed by some mighty strange management moves at the top.

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