And the Most Interesting People in the Nation’s Capital Are…Washington Post Journalists!

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.52.12 PMThe Washington Post commemorated its weekend move from 15th and L streets to 13th and K streets with a “A Special Issue” of the Washington Post Magazine. On the cover of the magazine was Bob Woodward with boxes of files, staged to casually show books about Ben Bradlee and Katharine Graham plus a portrait of Richard Nixon in case any readers had forgotten about Watergate.

Jack Shafer on asked “Why Is the Washington Post So Obsessed With Its Move?” and he answered with “It’s easier to write an obituary for a building then a profession.” The Post Magazine cover did, in fact, make Woodward look like a funeral director in black suit, white shirt, and dark tie.

On December 10 Shafer tweeted “The Post’s self-worship never ends” followed two days later with “Even *more* self-worship from the Wash Post in the Sunday Magazine.”

For journalists, it was an interesting issue of the Post Magazine with long, thoughtful pieces by Marc Fisher and Joel Achenbach. Fisher’s piece was “Goodbye, Old Washington Post: The 15th Street Building was ‘plain, dowdy,’ but a lot of scoops, scandals and news made history there.” Okay, maybe a little self-worshipful.

Achenbach’s piece was “Hello, New Washington Post: At One Franklin Square, we’re changing how we get news to you so fast we can’t describe it before it changes again.” The newspaper’s new address actually is 1301 K Street but One Franklin Square does have more dignity.

Some self-worship does show up often. The editor’s note reminds readers that the Post is “leaving the home where almost 50 years of history were made and recorded, the home where The Post became one of the world’s great newspapers, the home that has played a role in American democracy.” The editor’s note goes on: “We are moving an entire news organization without skipping a minute of coverage….That’s an organizational feat even Napoleon would admire.”

Fisher pointed out that 15th Street is where “the paper cemented a bolder reputation, defying the government to reveal a president’s misdeeds. The more ambitious Post brought literary, magazine-style journalism to a daily newspaper, fielded a worldwide roster of correspondents and expanded its investigative might….”

Achenbach added that “For decades no newspaper in America had anything close to the household penetration of The Post’s print edition.”

It did seem odd that Achenbach tried to ask Post owner Jeff Bezos about the newspaper’s future but Bezos “did not respond to a request for an interview for this article.” Achenbach then quoted Bezos as telling CBS News: “What we’re doing with the Post is, we’re working on becoming the new paper of record.”

Achenbach did get a quote from Post publisher Fred Ryan: “In many ways, what we’re doing is being for and about America.” Achenbach added: “The Post’s digital traffic has surged, particularly on mobile platforms, where traffic has almost doubled in the past year. The Post has passed the New York Times in both page views and unique visitors….”

More Fred Ryan: “As a privately held company, we can do experiments and be ambitious and bold in testing things….We have done a lot of these experiments and frankly the results have been incredible.”

I’ve been reading the Washington Post for 50 years and it is a very good paper but a newspaperman who says “frankly the results are incredible” sets off almost anyone’s bullshit detector. Ryan told Fisher that the Post “will retain a strong local focus. Being broader nationally doesn’t mean being less important locally.” That also sets off the bullshit detector of any Post reader who has watched the paper’s Metro section continue to plod along as the emphasis shifts to national and international news.

Finally, what took the magazine’s coverage way too far were the staged pictures of Post staff getting ready to move to new offices. The pictures shout aren’t we Posties cool, aren’t we the most interesting people in Washington? As Shafer points out, that’s a lot of self-worship.


  1. Len Shapiro says

    Come on Jack. Didn’t Washingtonian just blow its own horn in a 50th anniversary issue. The move from 15th st is a big deal considering the history associated with the building. And the incredible things Bezos has brought to the table include adding–repeat adding–125 newsroom jobs and turning the website into the most viewed newspaper site in the country. Len Shapiro

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