Reports of editor Marcus Brauchli’s imminent departure have been circulating within the Washington Post since the first of the year. He was supposed to have been gone by spring, but he lasted through that season, then the summer. Now once again, despite denials by Brauchli and senior management, rumors are swirling that his days are numbered.
“The rumors heat up and cool down, but they never stop,” says one editor. “It’s a distraction.”
When we contacted Post officials in the chain of command, they scoffed at the rumors—but they didn’t bother to reaffirm their support for Brauchli. So how to assess the reports? Are they “third-hand, inconsistent buzz,” as one Postie says? Or are Post reporters picking up on early signs of Brauchli’s end?
Brauchli, 51, has been at the helm for four years. Publisher Katharine Weymouth hired him to succeed Leonard Downie Jr. in September 2008. Word in the newsroom is that Weymouth’s ardor for Brauchli has cooled, and they have fought over budget cuts. Another report has her interviewing potential replacements.
Rumors came to a head this month during the Democratic convention, when massive computer problems forced editors to scramble to put out a paper with jury-rigged backup systems. Post reporters and editors at the Republican National Convention had cornered Brauchli about the rumors. He said they were just that. But at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, reporters said Brauchli was “less convincing.”
Who might be the next Post editor, in the line of the great Ben Bradlee?
When someone posted an Instagram image of Brauchli singing karaoke with Seattle Times editor David Boardman at a journalism conference last month, it immediately began trending on Twitter—within the Post. Reporters saw it as more evidence that Brauchli was on his way out and that Boardman would replace him.
Or would it be Boston Globe editor Marty Baron, also a hot prospect in newsroom gossip?
Might Weymouth make a run at New York Times managing editor Dean Baquet? She’s not talking.
If Brauchli departs any time soon, he would leave the Post’s top newsroom leadership in disarray. Brauchli hired his former Wall Street Journal colleague Raju Narisetti to manage the Post’s digital side and merge the print and internet newsrooms. Narisetti moved back to the Journal in February. Liz Spayd, a veteran Postie, shared managing editor duties with Narisetti. She’s stepping down after the campaign.
John Temple could be teed up to take over. He took Narisetti’s spot in March. The former editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News is responsible for digital and local news. He’s still getting to know the Post, but he’s well versed in the the print and social media realms and has the portfolio to run the paper.
But is Katharine Weymouth ready to hand that portfolio over to someone new?