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Nekesa Mumbi Moody has been named editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, joining the publication after more than two decades with the Associated Press, most recently as its global entertainment and lifestyles editor.

Why it matters: She replaces Matthew Belloni, who exited following reported disputes with the publication's owners over its editorial coverage.

  • "I think that Matthew left a great brand and had done incredible work," Moody said in an exclusive interview with Axios. "I'm excited to build on that and I'm excited to get to know amazing journalists at The Hollywood Reporter."
  • She hopes to bring a global perspective to the publication and double down on coverage of the cultural changes happening in Hollywood around topics like diversity and #MeToo.
  • She spent more than two decades with the AP — starting out as an intern in Albany, N.Y., before becoming a national editor and music writer and editor.

The big picture: After Belloni's exit, The Daily Beast reported that emails from senior executives at Valence Media, THR's parent company, appeared to pressure the publication's reporting.

  • According to a Valence spokesperson, the emails forwarded to The Daily Beast lacked context.
  • Variety has also reported that Belloni stepped down after being pressured to provide "a heads up about stories that negatively impact [Valence's] business interests."

Moody says she hasn't experienced anything like that so far. "The conversations I've had have been about great journalism," she said. "That's been the focus and it's been the focus on how to take the company forward. I haven't had any conversation about restricting anything."

  • She pointed out the company's relationship with Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism school and research organization. "I think it speaks volumes to the company's commitment to independent journalism."

The state of play: She takes the helm at a time when Hollywood is experiencing an unprecedented upheaval. "What's happening after and during the pandemic is the biggest story in Hollywood right now. It's the biggest thing happening in the entire world," she said.

  • "The most important thing right now is the change happening daily. ... We don't know what's going to happen to movie theaters, or other things within the industry as far as shows coming back, schedules and so forth."
  • "There are so many things changing. Hollywood was already going through a lot between the rise of streaming and challenges to traditional formats."

Between the lines: THR hasn't been immune to the challenges facing the media industry during the coronavirus crisis.

  • Earlier this month, Valence laid off 30% of the employees within its editorial division — about 100 people.
  • THR said at the time that it expected to publish slightly less frequently than usual throughout the pandemic.
  • In response to the cuts, Moody says her focus is on "how do we build and how to we grow with what we have and what we have is something really, truly great."

What's next: Moody starts June 15.

  • She is currently based in New York, but will move to THR's headquarters in Los Angeles to lead the team.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting parts of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.