News & Politics

Elizabeth "Lally" Weymouth: The Washington Post’s Last Graham

After more than eight decades, the dynasty comes to an end.

Publisher Phil Graham and father-in-law Eugene Meyer celebrate the 1954 purchase of the Times-Herald. The Post’s shining hour was its Watergate coverage, led by reporters Bob Woodward (center) and Carl Bernstein and publisher Katharine Graham, shown with granddaughters Pamela and Katharine Weymouth (former publisher of the Post). Photographs (left to right) by Hank Walker/Getty Images; Ron Galella/Getty Images; Bettmann/AP Images.

“After an 81-year run, the Graham family is out of the Washington Post,” wrote the New York Post’s vaunted media scribe, Keith Kelly, the day after Labor Day. It was true Katharine Weymouth had left the building, after staying on as publisher for a solid year after her uncle Donald Graham sold his family’s paper to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Elizabeth “Lally” Weymouth. Photograph by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic/Getty Images.

But K-Wey wasn’t the last Graham at the Post.

That would be her mother and Don’s sister, Elizabeth “Lally” Weymouth, 71, a senior associate editor who still occasionally shows up in the editorial pages or Sunday Outlook section, usually quizzing a far-flung head of state. (Her most recent interview, with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, appeared in September.)

“I think readers like the opportunity from time to time to read leaders’ words elicited by smart questions but unfiltered by pundits,” says editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt.

There’s poetic justice in Lally’s survival. The eldest of Katharine and Philip Graham’s four children, Lally was in line to run the Post after her mother retired. When the paper was handed to Don, she found other work within the family empire—she was Newsweek’s diplomatic correspondent for decades—and landed at the Post when her brother sold the magazine in 2010.

Since then, she has put stories on the front page, including—more poetic justice—the week the sale to Bezos was announced. But Lally often makes more news throwing fabulous bashes at her estate in Long Island’s Southampton than she does with her journalism. (New York governor Andrew Cuomo and billionaire tycoon Carl Icahn were on hand for her July birthday party.)

As the Post’s woes mounted in the later Graham years, some eye-rolling, not to say bitterness, has been directed at Lally, who drew a base salary of $300,000 in 2013, according to company financial filings, for what some regard as a family sinecure. “She’s got the genes for the job, if not the talent,” says Tom Shales, the Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning former TV critic who, in his words, was “handed my hat” in 2010.

Perhaps, but Lally has outlasted them all.

This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Washingtonian.