Changes At The 'Post' Mark A Break From Paper's Storied Past
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, bought The Washington Post a year ago. And today he moved to put his mark on the paper by replacing Katharine Weymouth as publisher. Weymouth represented the last of four generations, as NPR's David Folkenflik reports.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Weymouth's family led The Post for eight decades. Her great-grandfather bought the paper amid the crisis of the Great Depression. But she and her uncle, Donald Graham, then the chairman of the paper's parent company, concluded they didn't know how to reverse severe drops in revenues from advertising and circulation. Last summer Bezos bought the paper for a relative pittance - a quarter of a billion dollars.
RAJU NARISETTI: I think the biggest change I've noticed from a distance is a shift in a sense of gloom and doom to one of optimism and saying that it will take us some time, but we have the right ownership to figure out some of the answers.
FOLKENFLIK: That's former Washington Post managing editor Raju Narisetti. He's now senior vice president for strategy at News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal and dozens of other papers. He notes The Post has made several dozen new hires under Bezos.
NARISETTI: Look, when you buy from a team that said we really don't have the right answer, even if you're a billionaire, a 250 million investment is worth protecting with your own team in place.
FOLKENFLIK: Katharine Weymouth has indicated privately that Bezos's decision was a disappointment, but not a surprise. The new publisher is Frederick Ryan, the founding publisher of Politico, the Washington-based publication created by two former Washington Post political journalists frustrated by what they saw as the inertia of their bosses. Ryan knows Washington politics well, too, as a former Reagan White House aide and as current chairman of the Ronald Reagan Library Foundation. Yet, Cathy Merrill suggests Ryan may prove a surprisingly unimaginative choice. Merrill is the publisher of Washingtonian Magazine and president of its parent company.
CATHY MERRILL: I think in the media business people thought that Bezos - if he was going to bring in his own team, was going to bring in someone either - A, from the West Coast - Silicon Valley world - or B, someone from very new media - Buzzfeed, Gawker, Huff Post. Pick any of those type of sites.
FOLKENFLIK: Merrill argues the paper has yet to resolve the tensions between serving two audiences as both a regional and a national newspaper.
MERRILL: People who are working and commuting in Fairfax County outside of Washington really don't care what happened at the FCC today. People who work at the FCC don't really care about the commute in Fairfax County.
FOLKENFLIK: Ryan told his new paper he doesn't plan to switch editors. His record will help determine whether Bezos's acquisition of The Post will turn out to be an investment or a subsidy. David Folkenflik, NPR News.