“What would Len have done?” That question was put to Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli as he met with reporters in July to explain why the paper had planned “salons” that would bring its journalists together with government officials and lobbyists, whose companies would have sponsored the off-the-record evenings.
Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander called the plan “an ethical lapse of monumental proportions.” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs ribbed Post reporter Mike Shear by asking how much it would cost to answer one of his questions.
The Post reporters Brauchli met with wanted answers. When one suggested that Leonard Downie Jr., the longtime executive editor who preceded Brauchli, would have nixed the salon plan, Brauchli responded: “He might well have. But every editor looks at information differently, depending on the time and the situation.”
Which raises a question: With Don Graham and Bo Jones out of the publisher’s suite and Downie gone from the newsroom—replaced by the new generation of publisher Katharine Weymouth and Brauchli, a Wall Street Journal veteran—is there anyone at the top who is steeped in the paper’s values?
Graham—who still serves as company CEO—wasn’t involved in the salon discussions. Managing editors Liz Spayd and Raju Narisetti were.
“It’s on my shoulders,” Brauchli tells Post Watch.
But would Downie have killed the salon idea? One Post reporter says of Brauchli and Weymouth, “They are under enormous financial pressure. You can’t say what anyone would have done.”
Graham has shown up in the newsroom to reassure reporters that the paper’s ethical principles haven’t changed. He might have to stick around.
This article first appeared in the August 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.
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