The Washington Post is, like many papers, in bad business shape. That's a given. But today is one step at looking forward, as they found an editor in The Boston Globe's Martin Baron to replace executive editor Marcus Brauchli. The appointment of Baron, who will take over at The Post on Jan. 2 after 11 years as the top Globe editor, puts an end to a not-that-secret search for Brauchli's replacement that reportedly involved names like The New York Times's managing editor Dean Baquet and John Temple, who runs everything digital at WaPo. But in addition to beating these names, Baron's hire so far has pleased the journalism wonks who matter.
One big reason the wonks mattered was because of reports that executives at the paper were not exactly committed to the news values that were shown in All the President's Men. Despite its financial woes, The Washington Post still The Washington Post, it's still a name-brand, and still, for now, still has weight to throw around and is, according to USA Today a top-ten paper in terms of circulation. "The Post still holds the advantage of being the sort of grande dame of Washington," a media expert told The New York Times. But some have worried that corners may be cut in standards and quality to get the balance sheet in order.
Back in May Adweek's Lucia Moses reported that WaPo president Steve Hills told people at a meeting that he really likes those obnoxious slideshows and believed them to be the paper's savior. "Hills was said to have shocked with remarks that awards 'don’t matter,' urged more traffic-driving slideshows, over original Post photos and compared the Post to Ohio’s Dayton Daily News, a paper with one-fifth the circulation of the 508,000-circ Post," Moses wrote.
Baron's thoughts on digital are bit more moderated. Back in 2009 he told University of Oregon journalism students that the current challenges to newspapers meant looking at print and digital as one piece, not two separate entities.
They force us to assess which resources we should devote to the newspaper when so many readers and advertisers are migrating to the web -- and which resources we should devote to digital when revenues still come disproportionately from print. This is an impossible choice, and ultimately we must view all resources as serving both digital and print.
And it was just last month Baron was asked to speak at the England Associated Press News Executives Association, and displayed a nimble knowledge of adapting to the digital world citing Google, Facebook, and Twitter as examples to learn from. He said (via Romenesko):
We are in a period of ferocious experimentation and exploration in media — by consumers, by advertisers, and necessarily by news organizations like ours. The worst thing we can do is do nothing at all. We know for sure where that will lead us. And it is nowhere good.
But the biggest reason that Baron may mean stability at the Post is simply that he, unlike Brauchli, gets along with publisher Katharine Weymouth. Before the months of rumors and reports of whether Brauchli would continue as editor (the press release says Brauchli will take on "a new role as Vice President of The Washington Post Company, working closely with chairman and CEO Don Graham to review and evaluate new media opportunities"), there were reports of frictions between the editor and publisher over newsroom costs. As The New York Times's Christine Haughey put it:
The relationship between Ms. Weymouth and Mr. Brauchli chilled as she pushed him to make newsroom cuts he was uncomfortable with, according to people in the newsroom familiar with the discussions.
According to Forbes' Jeff Bercovici, Baron has been in Weymouth's sights for the job since at least September. And so, there's always a fresh start.