A Katharine Graham biographer weighs in on the Washington Post sale.
A newspaper delivery network solves the last mile problem
Gee, what ever would an Amazon founder want with a delivery network that can bring things to 500,000 customers by 5 a.m.?
The Washington Post was once one of the nation’s two great newspapers. It covered not just Washington, but the world, and it did so according to canons of objectivity handed down by the current publisher’s great grandfather, Eugene Meyer. Meyer was a member of a bygone elite. He made many millions on Wall Street and as an industrialist, but by the 1920s was devoting himself to public service—as official in successive administrations and as chairman of the Federal Reserve. In 1933, he bought the Washington Post at a bankruptcy sale.
When I was in high school, one of my classmates tried to get the Washington Post to buy an ad in the literary magazine. She was turned down. But the rejection came with a hand written note from Donald Graham, then the paper’s publisher. If he bought the ad, he explained, he’d have to say yes to every other teenager who came his way. But, he added, “some time when you’re just a bit older, I want to talk to you about coming to work here.”
It is often said that the age of the Washington hostess is dead. Gone are the days, we are told, of Katharine Graham and Pamela Harriman, who assembled Washington power players around tables where deals were struck and alliances forged. But that may not be entirely true. The name Rima Al-Sabah doesn’t ring many bells to people outside the Beltway. Inside, it rings a lot. Al-Sabah is the wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador, Salem Al-Sabah. Since the couple arrived in Washington in 2001, she has become known as the issuer of invitations one doesn’t decline.
On July 2 of last year, Politico broke a startling story: The Washington Post was planning to host off-the-record salons at which sponsors would pay to mingle with D.C. eminences and Post writers. The dinners--the first of which had been advertised in Post fliers as an “exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will actually get it done”--were to take place at the home of Katharine Weymouth, the Post’s publisher. Weymouth, granddaughter of legendary Post owner Katharine Graham, had only been on the job for a year and a half.
Times change in the newspaper business; technologies and perceptions come and go. There is so little one can rely on. But there is this: Every few years, a writer for The New Republic or some similar magazine comes forward to announce the collapse of standards and journalism at The Washington Post. Having read these stories for 40 years, I found Gabriel Sherman's piece ("Post Apocalypse," February 4) particularly lazy. Not much new here.
The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President By Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster, 707 pp., $35) In her infamous first sentence of The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm swings for the fences and proclaims that "every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." She means that journalists use their human subjects and then dispose of them; that we con them in person by "preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness"--it occurs to me to note that however bleak print's future seems
Surry Hill. So reads a plaque at the end of the long, winding private road that leads to the crown jewel of McLean, Virginia: the 18,000-square-foot mansion that Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers and his wife Edwina call home. To get there from Washington, you drive across the Potomac River and along a parkway that, in the summer, is canopied by lush green trees. Shortly before the guarded entrance to the CIA, you turn off McLean's main road and then down a private lane, passing through brick gate posts adorned with black lanterns and into a grand cul-de-sac. A massive brick Colonial with majestic