News & Politics

Don Graham Hits New York Times Over For-Profit Colleges Article

Photograph by mixmotive/via iStock.

Former Washington Post Publisher Don Graham had some sharp words for the New York Times in a commentary published Friday morning by the Wall Street Journal. Graham was exercised about an October 12 Times article about for-profit colleges that says the US Education Department showers money on “for-profit schools that have been accused of predatory behavior, substandard practices or illegal activity by its own officials or state attorneys general across the country.”

The Graham Holdings Company, which used to own the Post, still owns the for-profit Kaplan University. Like other for-profit schools, Kaplan has seen enrollment fall dramatically since 2010, when the Government Accounting Office said 15 for-profit schools, including Kaplan, deceived potential students about tuition costs and job prospects. Other investigations have followed.

Times reporter Patricia Cohen never contacted Kaplan, Graham writes, saying the school was “lumped in with what the Times thought were the lousiest for-profit colleges.” The Times, he writes, wouldn’t run a letter he wrote complaining about the story, hence the Journal op-ed.

Graham didn’t pitch the piece to the Post, Graham Holdings spokesperson Pinkie Mayfield tells Washingtonian.

Graham uses the piece as more than a vehicle for media criticism, making points about the gains Kaplan grads have seen in income, figures he says “look very good for students and for Kaplan.” What’s also interesting is that the Journal piece arrives less than a month after Amazon criticized a Times article about the retailer using the publishing platform Medium. Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet replied to that post, also using Medium.

Graham hasn’t had the same luck Amazon did–Mayfield says the Times, which Graham calls “one of America’s best for-profit newspapers” in a legitimately sick burn, hasn’t replied to his piece. Washingtonian was able to duplicate this result: A request to the Times for comment about Graham’s article earlier on Monday has not yet been favored with a reply.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.