The New Republic's tenacious media reporter Gabriel Sherman, has finally delivered a much-anticipated story
on the the Washington "Post Apocalypse." Sherman, a take-down specialist whose March 2009 cover story
helped define Politico's reputation, diagnoses the
Post's troubles over a tough handful of years. He digs up old scandals and reports some new ones to
explain what he calls "the messy decline of a great newspaper." Before the media-debate hits, here are the highlights of the 4,700-word bombshell.
- Salongate The controversial "salons"
were Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth's idea. She had pushed them
since long before she became publisher but was met with internal
resistance. "[P]rivately, the scandal had left the newsroom questioning
judgment of both Weymouth and Marcus Brauchli, the paper's new editor."
- Weymouth Internally Unpopular
A parade of Post editors and writers complain to Sherman about
Weymouth, who refused to work on the paper's editorial side before
taking over. Says star reporter Walter Pincus, "Literally, she only
knew five or six of us."
- Identity Crisis Sherman argues
the Post's biggest problem is that it lacks a clear identity, unlike
competitors New York Times and Wall Street Journal. "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."
- The Search for an Editor
Before Weymouth tapped Marcus Brauchli of the Wall Street Journal to
lead as executive editor, others considers were Newsweek's Jon Meacham,
foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius, and New York Times deputy
managing editor Jon Landman. Staffers call Brauchli "Count Brauchula"
and suggest he got the job by impressing Weymouth when, while she was
driving him to the Post offices, he calmly removed a spider from her
- Web Versus Print Turf War Sherman surveys the
internal debate between print staffers calling for substantive national
and foreign coverage versus web staffers demanding Politico-style
obsessive beltway coverage. He says the web side is winning, citing the
Post's mobilization of a 25-person war room to cover the White House
party crashers. One print staffer complains, "If I were to call a
similar meeting on Al Qaeda’s recruitment in
the U.S., you know what I would get? I might get two people there." A
web staffer counters, "At the Post, the Neanderthals won."
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