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 the 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 leg.
- 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."