Now that the dust has settled from last week's shakeup at the top of The Washington Post's masthead, New York Times media sage David Carr has a clearer view of what's happening at the paper, and it is not a pretty picture. The Post has the misfortune of being the topic of Carr's column this week. It's an interesting read that stars Katharine Weymouth, The Post's publisher and Katharine Graham's granddaughter, and outgoing executive editor Marcus Brauchli. Carr doesn't have a lot of great things to say about Weymouth or her paper. In fact, his column is less a glance at the state of affairs at Washington's hometown paper than it is a brow-down stare at the long list of things that have gone wrong there in the past few years. Brauchli is just the beginning of the trouble.
Things have been particularly messy for The Post since Weymouth announced last week that Martin Baron would be coming down to take the reins from Brauchli. Weymouth tried hard to make it look like it was Brauchli's decision to leave the top job in one of the world's most powerful newsrooms and insisted as much in interviews. But the world got a glimpse of what really went down when Brauchli's wife wrote in a Facebook posting that's since been deleted about her husband's "courage to stand up for his ideals … dedication to superior journalism as an essential part of our democracy." She added, "Has The Washington Post of Watergate fame become the place where you can't speak truth to power?"
Carr suggests as much in his column not from an emotional standpoint but from a business perspective. Maybe The Post isn't what it used to be, in part, because it can't afford to be, and Weymouth's rudderless leadership certainly isn't helping matters, he suggests. "The Post is not what it once was, but it isn't nothing either," says Carr. "Ms. Weymouth's continued misfires, along with the lack of success in generating new revenue, however, have left the newspaper staring down the gun barrel of deep cuts and a business model in free fall." Carr adds that "the way the switch was made raised questions about Ms. Weymouth's maturity and steadfastness as an operational leader."
So The Post is staring down the barrel of a gun, and the maturity of its fearless leader is being questioned. Meanwhile, it's the just The Times putting the hammer down on Weymouth and The Post. The trade presses are hammering Weymouth's decision to decapitate the paper's editorial department instead of shaking things up on the business side, where things have really gone south. The Columbia Journalism Review's Ryan Chittum put it bluntly in his column last week, "It looks like [Baron will] be handed the same impossible task given Brauchli: Leading an already diminished newsroom waiting for the outsider's ax to fall."