News & Politics

Donald Trump Congratulated Mark Ein for Buying Washington City Paper

Photograph by Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

In a recent interview with Recode Executive Editor Kara Swisher, local venture capitalist Mark Ein says that after the Washington Post wrote about his recent purchase of Washington City Paper, President Trump sent him a note of congratulations.

Swisher asked him what the President said: “Congratulations,” Ein replies.

Ein has talked about the President before. That Post piece cites a 2012 interview with Ein in which he said Trump was among his inspirations as a youngster–“sort of an icon when I was growing up.” It continues:

“I think his family — I actually know some of them — I think they’re terrific,” Ein said, describing Ivanka Trump as “amazing” and her husband, Jared Kushner, as a “great guy.”

Reminded of those remarks, Ein said: “Really? Jeez. Wow. I don’t remember that.”

As it happens, Trump’s immediate family has some experience with owning scrappy publications: Kushner owned the New York Observer from 2006 (he bought it with money he received as a “graduation present” from his dad)  until early last year, when he placed it in a family trust. Kushner’s tenure as owner was eventful, with a succession of editors and an unfulfilled desire to see a hit piece on a rival.

The entire interview is terrific and offers some insight into what Ein’s plans are for the venerable alt-weekly. A few more highlights:

• Swisher introduces herself by saying “You may know me as someone who used to work for the City Paper in Washington, DC, but in my spare time I talk about tech.” Later she mentions she got fired by the paper. “Do you want to come back?” Ein says.

• Ein talks about sports as a possible source of revenue for the publication. “If you add up the sports teams in town, they sell six million tickets. We get not a dollar from them, but we’re the best way to reach the millennial audience. We’re actually going to start a sports section. We’re not going to cover, since we’re weekly, we’re not going to cover games and standings, but we’re going to tell the behind-the-scenes story of the athletes and the teams. They’re fantastic stories, the same stories we tell about everyone else in town. We believe that the sports organizations will then want to be supporters of ours.” (Indeed, the paper has advertised a job for a sportswriter.)

• The paper has lost money for five years, Ein says, but he also says Washingtonian‘s report that he paid $50,000 for the paper wasn’t correct or perhaps incomplete: “Yeah, that wasn’t right, because it came with a lot of liabilities and losses and stuff. You can never judge it by that.” FWIW I did ask him about this figure at this time of the sale and he didn’t dispute it.

•  He was very impressed by City Paper Editor Alexa Mills: “With my venture hat on I thought this is the kind of person I’d want to back.” He also says he’s not a fan of snarky writing: “I’m not a believer in snark. Alexa isn’t either. I don’t think snark for the sake of that is a tone that really is attractive to a wide audience.”

Disclosures: I worked at City Paper, as did my boss Michael Schaffer and my coworker Jessica Sidman, who tipped me about Ein’s Trump news. 

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.

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