Today, The Wall Street Journal finally gets around to discussing who will replace Len Downie at the Washington Post.
Some highlights (the full article is not available free online):
Whoever gets the job — Marcus Brauchli, who recently stepped down as managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, is believed by people familiar with the search to be the leading candidate — will be taking over the Post at a time when the harsh economic conditions that have ravaged newspapers have begun to exact a heavy toll on the paper. Furthermore, current and former staffers expect one of the new editor’s first tasks may be further downsizing the newsroom and reorienting Post staffers to a paper with a narrower editorial mission and a greater focus on the Web.
The change at the top of the Post is being closely watched in the newspaper industry. The Post is one of just a few survivors of a dying breed of local newspapers with national and international ambitions. And the paper, whose parent company is controlled by the Graham family, has been a model of stability in a turbulent industry. The last two executive editors both had long stints: Ben Bradlee, who oversaw coverage of the Watergate scandal during his 26-year stint that ended in 1991, and Mr. Downie, his successor, who said recently he would step down in September.
During the last 24 months, the paper’s weekday circulation has dropped 7.1% to 673,180 while print ad revenue declined 13.4% in 2007. In response, the Post recently shed more than 100 newsroom jobs through voluntary buyouts. It was the third buyout at the Post in five years, bringing the total newsroom count down to about 700 from its peak of over 900 in 2003. “There’s that fear [of more cuts] because that’s what we’ve gotten used to,” said Frank Ahrens, a business reporter and editor at the Post.
The new editor is to be appointed by the Post’s new publisher, Katherine Weymouth, a member of the Graham family, who assumed oversight of the paper earlier this year from Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. Donald Graham, Ms. Weymouth’s uncle and the Post Co. chairman and chief executive, cited her digital expertise as a key reason she was ready for the job. Ms. Weymouth declined to comment.
As we noted this morning, “Word on the street is that the Washington Post will name Marcus Brauchli as Len Downie’s replacement (with up to three managing editors) tomorrow.”