Tracy Grant will leave the Washington Post to become the editor-in-chief of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Post Executive Editor Sally Buzbee and Managing Editor Cameron Barr informed staff of the move with what they characterized as a “sweet and salty mixture of pride and regret” in a memo on Wednesday.
Grant joined the Post in 1993 as a copy editor and had a very solid career in which she rose to managing editor for staff development and standards in 2018. Last fall she “requested a return to writing,” as Buzbee put it in a memo.
Under previous Executive Editor Martin Baron, Grant became a polarizing figure in the newsroom—I could have written a second feature last summer about discussions I had with Post staff and alumni regarding her management style. She was the responsible for discipline as well as the person who could help guide people along their career paths, roles that often conflicted and could leave bruised feelings.
Grant was also often stuck with doing the emotional labor for her not especially emotive boss: Listening to complaints, chastising people for infractions like bad tweets (an increasingly busy role at the Post), and reminding staffers that the institution was bigger than any one person. Buzbee and Barr’s memo says that under Baron, Grant became “de facto chief of staff.”
The culture crisis that’s been on painful display at the Washington Post recently stems in part from the paper’s lack of an up-to-date social media policy, which never quite emerged under Grant’s tenure managing standards and staff. She was the one who explained that the Post suspended now-former reporter Felicia Sonmez for “poor judgment” by sending completely accurate tweets about Kobe Bryant, precipitating a newsroom rebellion. She was also the one who handed new hires a copy of Katharine Graham’s Personal History and helped people get out of jobs they didn’t love. It was complicated.
Grant will divide her time between Britannica’s Chicago office and her home in the DC area, Buzbee and Barr write. The Post will fête her “after she settles into her travel routine,” they say. In a separate note to staff, Grant said she was thinking about “How I worked alongside so many of you. How I helped recruit or hire so many of you. How I tried to mentor and advise so many of you.” Other than one week a month in Chicago, she wrote, she’ll be around.