End of an era as Graham family bows out of The Washington Post
New York Times is only major US newspaper still controlled by a family
The Grahams’ resolve to retain ownership was wilted by an industrial cataclysm that laid many newspapers low, and then the Post did some further damage by emphasising a regional approach and responding to a sharp decline in revenues by taking apart its own vaunted newsroom piece by piece. Even as the rest of the industry decided that there was an urgent need to begin charging on the web,tThe Post held out, only recently deciding to join the rest.
For a time, the newspaper was propped up by its education division, Stanley Kaplan, but when that company encountered regulatory and business turbulence, the losses at the newspaper - revenue dropped 44 per cent over the past six years - came into sharp focus.
Still, news of the sale and who was buying it was an unexpected and extraordinary development in the newspaper industry. Given that the Post still has potency as a political symbol, the fact that it could be acquired by a man who made his fortune taking apart book-publishing - another traditional business - served as another example that the center of gravity in the media world has pivoted away from the East Coast.
Technology and its leaders have proved time and again that they can set an agenda based on giving the consumer what they want, not what some politicians, or a newspaper, thinks they need. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the sale is that it happened under the watch of Donald Graham. All scions of industry do their time on the shop-room floor, but Mr Graham had shown that he didn’t want to just inherit his enterprise, he wanted to earn it. He joined the Marines and later the Washington police force to walk a beat before doing his stations in the Post newsroom and on the business side.
He was perhaps not the legend that his mother, Katharine, the longtime publisher, was, but to many he represented a certain kind of stubborn belief that good newspapering was its own end. In the popular imagination, journalism reached its highest and best calling during Watergate, whentThe Post and its determined owner, Katharine Graham, took on a sitting president.
The idea that Donald Graham would sell the paper, whatever merits the sale might entail, seemed as unlikely as Henry V giving up the crown. “It is a very big Washington moment,” said David Gergen, who was involved in four presidential administrations. “When Kay Graham had you to her house, it was a command performance. It was one of the last places where people with very different agendas would set down their weapons and come to talk. That has been disappearing for a long time, but symbolically, this brings an end to that era.”
New York Times