Leonard Downie Jr., editor of The Washington Post since 1991, announced today he is retiring as executive editor, “ending a 17-year tenure in which the paper became a major online force and won a slew of prizes for high-profile investigations, including one that Downie published over President Bush’s objections.,” the Post reported this afternoon.
Downie, 66, said his last day will be Sept. 8. The paper’s publisher, Katharine Weymouth, said she plans to announce a successor soon, but gave no date.
“After 44 years, the notion of not working in the newsroom anymore brings a lot of emotions,” Downie said in an interview with the Post. “I will really miss it. … At the same time I’m ready to do this, because so much further change now needs to take place at the newspaper and Web site, and someone else should be tackling that.”
In a story, the Post said Downie summed up his management philosophy in a sentence: “You hire people smarter and more talented than you, and enable them to do their best work.”
Downie will become a Washington Post Co. vice president at large, a title also held by his predecessor as editor, Ben Bradlee.
“An Ohio native who spent his entire career at The Post, Downie has helped shape the paper for nearly a quarter-century, first when he became managing editor in 1984 and more forcefully after succeeding Bradlee in 1991,” the paper stated. “Unlike Bradlee, he has largely avoided television and the party circuit. Downie said he and Post Co. chief executive Donald Graham, who followed his mother, Katharine Graham, in the publisher’s job, occasionally talked about how ‘we were both known as the colorless successors to colorful people.'”