News & Politics

How to Poke Don Graham and Not Get Fired for It (Hint: Try Facebook)

Let’s say you want to cozy up to Don Graham, one of the nation’s most powerful media moguls. How do you socialize with the head of the Washington Post Company?

You can hope for a chance meeting on the Metro. He would be the sixtyish gentleman with rosy cheeks, brown fedora, and funky overcoat.

Better yet, you can “friend” him on Facebook, the online social network that’s all the rage with much younger people.

At one of his occasional luncheons with staff members at the Post boardroom, Graham talked up NewsTracker, a new application that allows Facebook users to add Post headlines to their page and link to its Web site. He also mentioned that he has his own Facebook page.

This revelation further enshrines the strait-laced publisher as one of the hippest guys in the news business. As they say on the Web, Don Graham “gets it.”

Facebook started out as a social-networking site restricted to the high-school and college set. As it expanded to become the place of choice for young people to meet and communicate online, it opened up to all ages. Graham, 62, joined in.

Posties flocked to “friend” Graham, meaning they could communicate with him with a quick “poke” or a longer quip of a few sentences. At last check, Graham had more than 300 friends. Among them were media mogul and Post Company board member Barry Diller. New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger friended Graham; Graham friended back.

While there are many ambitious Post writers on Graham’s list of friends, missing were executive editor Leonard Downie and managing editor Phil Bennett.

But it’s only a matter of time before the best way to reach writers or editors at the Post will be on Facebook. According to Facebook’s count, 555 Post staffers already are part of the network.

Not all have “friended” Don Graham. Yet.

Meanwhile, your chances of seeing Graham on the Metro have declined. The recently separated publisher is likely to be walking to work more often from his new Dupont Circle digs near the Phillips Collection.

This article first appeared in the December 2007 issue of Washingtonian Magazine.