Today, my New Republic cover story on the rise and fall of the Washington Post is out. My piece looks at the last year of turmoil at the Post, as the new publisher Katharine Weymouth and executive editor Marcus Brauchli try to chart a new path for the paper in this fractured media landscape. To understand the Post‘s current troubles, though, you have to look farther back in history to the tenure of Len Downie, who presided over the newsroom for 17 years. Downie professionalized the Post newsroom, which was erratic after Watergate, but he also failed to ready the Post for the sweeping changes that would give rise to competitors like Politico.
From the piece:
Over the past few months, I have talked to about 50 current and former reporters, editors, Web staffers, and business employees. From these conversations, a picture has emerged of a paper suffering an identity crisis. Its peers seem to have coherent strategies for saving themselves: The New York Times is doubling down on journalism in the belief that it can persevere online as the global newspaper of record; The Wall Street Journal remains the country’s definitive chronicler of business; other large papers have tried to distinguish themselves by burrowing into local issues. But the Post seems to be paralyzed-and trapped. It can’t go completely local because the local news in Washington is, in many respects, national; and its status as the paper of record for national politics is under assault from numerous competitors–competitors it isn’t clear the Post can defeat. Meanwhile, the tense, even hostile, relationship between the print and online divisions hasn’t made the paper’s search for a coherent identity any easier. And so, in a new era for journalism, The Washington Post has yet to figure out what it wants to be. The result has been a lot of lurching–some of it (like salongate) embarrassing, much of it merely ineffective, but almost all of it suggesting a newspaper in disarray.
Read the full piece HERE