Post Watch: Meet the Post’s “Mystery Man”

By: Harry Jaffe

Ask most Washington Post writers and editors about Raju Narisetti and you’re likely to get a puzzled look. What does Narisetti, the paper’s second-most powerful editor, do?

“Can’t figure it out,” says one writer.

“Mystery man to nearly everyone,” says another.

“The hatchet man,” says a third.

Odd that journalists who are known for ferreting out facts about powerful Washingtonians can’t peel back the curtain on their own boss. They’re used to managing editors like Howard Simons, Robert Kaiser, and Steve Coll who walked the newsroom and engaged reporters. Narisetti is nearly silent in the newsroom and has made little effort to relate to reporters. He declined many requests for an interview.

What’s known is that Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli hired Narisetti for a purpose. Both had worked at the Wall Street Journal, where they met and forged a bond. With Brauchli’s backing, Narisetti is seen as the outsider he hopes will retool the Post newsroom for journalism’s digital age.

“Raju is a terrific newsman who also happens to be exceptionally thoughtful and strategic,” Brauchli says by e-mail. “He gets smart things done, and he gets them done with minimum fuss and maximum effect.”

With little fuss but much effect, Narisetti declined to renew Tony Kornheiser’s contract, which ended the sports commentator’s decades with the Post. He also cut through the Post’s internal bureaucracy to hire Ezra Klein, a blogger he saw as the Post’s future—rather than a past built on brands like Kornheiser’s.

Post writers and editors expect Narisetti to be a short-timer. They say Brauchli hired him to meld the digital and print newsrooms into one, to cut the staff, and then to move on to other opportunities. They might be wrong.

Narisetti, 43, grew up in India and moved to the United States in 1990 to get a master’s in journalism at Indiana University. Two years later, he was working at the Dayton Daily News in Ohio, when he met his future wife. Kim Narisetti grew up in Maryland and got a journalism degree at Howard University.

Both Narisettis worked at the Wall Street Journal. They moved to Brussels, where Raju oversaw the Journal’s European editions, and then to New Delhi in 2007 so he could start Mint, a business-daily newspaper and Web site linked with the Journal. Brauchli convinced him to give up Mint and come to the Post.

The Narisettis live in Bethesda with their two daughters. Kim Narisetti is publisher of Urban Crayon Press, which publishes children’s books and family-oriented travel guides.

Raju Narisetti is responsible for all of the Post’s online content and “interactivity,” according to his job description. He also runs Style, the Sunday magazine, weekly feature sections, and the paper’s photo, graphics, and design efforts. His responses to an online chat in January didn’t reveal much about his intentions. He did, however, acknowledge he’d attended the White House state dinner for the president of India last year.

Unlike Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Narisettis were invited. That gave them a start on joining Washington society but didn’t gain them much with Post staffers.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Party Photos