Today’s announcement of The Washington Post‘s sale is both exciting and creating feelings of nostalgia. Growing up in the Washington DC area, it was a privilege to have it be our home town newspaper – the paper of Dave Barry, Watergate, Woodward, and Bernstein – pre-Robert Redford’s role, of course. I remember a professor in Journalism school sharing an article Gene Weingarten had written, as an example of exceptional writing, and I remember thinking this is the guy I’ve read every week on the last page of The Washington Post magazine for years. Growing up in the DC area has meant that kind of access.
Unfortunately, the Post also suffered in editorial content over the past few years. I had hoped a pay wall would help it regain their editorial standards, and be a real competitor to The New York Times, but that hasn’t happened. Call it an identity crisis: the conflict of being a regional paper with a small town feel while also being The Washington Post, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it – and breaking news.
When a single family owns a company for many decades, and when that family acts for all those decades in good faith, in a principled manner, in good times and in rough times, as stewards of important values – when that family has done such a good job – it is only natural to worry about change. So, let me start with something critical. The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.
The Washington Post isn’t the publication it once was – but clearly it has the potential to get back to its former glory and remind us why their journalists have consistently won Pulitzer prizes. Only time will tell.