The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi on the Hiring of Sally Buzbee as the First Woman to be Named Top Editor of the Post

From a Washington Post story by Paul Farhi headlined “Sally Buzbee of the Associated Press named executive editor of The Washington Post, the first woman to lead the newsroom”:

The Washington Post has named longtime journalist Sally Buzbee of the Associated Press as its executive editor, marking the first time a woman has been appointed to lead the 143-year-old news organization.

Buzbee, AP’s executive editor, will take over leadership of The Post’s nearly 1,000-person newsroom next month….

She succeeds Martin Baron, who retired at the end of February after serving as editor since 2013. Her appointment ended a search that began 10 weeks ago, following Baron’s retirement.

Buzbee, 55, has headed AP’s news operations since 2017, and has been with the organization since she began her career as a journalist in 1988. The venerable wire service, headquartered in New York, is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with about 2,800 journalists. Like The Post, it produces hundreds of news articles, feature stories and photos every day….It also produces audio and video reports that are carried on TV and radio stations.

Buzbee’s experience overseeing international newsgathering made her an attractive candidate as The Post expands its operations abroad….The newspaper has announced plans to open news hubs in London and Seoul this year that will enable its newsroom to report stories around-the-clock. It will also open bureaus in Sydney and Bogota, expanding its total to 26 outside the United States.

Buzbee also has Washington ties. From 2010 to 2016, she was AP’s Washington bureau chief, and was in charge of its coverage of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, as well as its coverage of Congress, the White House and federal agencies. During an earlier stint in Washington in the 1990s, she was the AP’s assistant bureau chief for news, running spot news coverage and overseeing the foreign affairs and national security beats….

In a memo to employees on Tuesday, publisher Fred Ryan wrote that “we looked for someone steeped in the courageous journalism that is The Post’s hallmark, and who can extend our reach to news audiences in the U.S. and abroad.”…

Ryan said in an interview Tuesday that Buzbee was the “runaway unanimous choice” for the job following interviews with him and Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder who owns The Post….

Buzbee’s appointment was a surprise to those who closely followed the search for The Post’s next editor — a testament to the secrecy in which Ryan conducted his search. Her name rarely came up amid intense internal discussion about who would follow Baron.

In selecting Buzbee, Ryan passed over three journalists who had been considered leading candidates and sentimental favorites among many Post journalists.

The first was Kevin Merida, who spent 22 years at the newspaper, rising to managing editor of news and features, before leaving to join ESPN in 2015….Merida was named editor of the Los Angeles Times last week.

The others were internal candidates: Cameron Barr, who replaced Merida as managing editor in 2015 and has been serving as interim executive editor since Baron retired; and Steven Ginsberg, National editor who guided much of the newsroom’s coverage of the Trump White House.

The Post was one of several news organizations that have been seeking to replace their top editors. Among others, ABC News, CBS News, the L.A. Times, Reuters, Wired, Vox and HuffPost are, or were, searching for new leadership in recent months.

After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1988, Buzbee started her career as an AP reporter in Kansas. She was also a reporter in Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington. She made the jump to editing in 1996 as assistant bureau chief in Washington.

Beginning in 2004, she was AP’s Middle East regional editor in Cairo, supervising coverage of the Iraq War. She also holds an MBA degree from Georgetown University.

Although several women have served as managing editors at The Post, the second-ranking position, none have been appointed to the top spot since the newspaper was founded in 1877….

News of Buzbee’s hire came as a surprise to journalists inside and outside The Post newsroom, including those who had eagerly followed rumors about the job search. Several noted Tuesday morning that her name hadn’t surfaced in previous news coverage of Baron’s potential replacement….

“What a long road from Katharine Graham” — former publisher of The Post — “to Sally Buzbee, now The Post’s first woman executive editor in its 144-year history,” tweeted Jason Ukman, managing editor of STAT News.

At The Post, Buzbee will assume leadership in a newsroom that was revived under Baron and largely rebuilt by Bezos, who purchased The Post for $250 million from the Graham family in August 2013.

Bezos has made big investments in the company’s technology and newsgathering operations, enabling it to weather the long and continuing downturn in the newspaper business. The heart of The Post’s business success has been its ability to attract digital subscribers; it now has 3 million, triple its total in 2016, but is still well behind its chief rival, the New York Times, and its 7.5 million….

In taking one of the most high-profile jobs in American journalism, Buzbee will inevitably face comparisons to Baron, who guided The Post to 10 Pulitzer Prizes. Baron also faced some internal dissension over his handling of matters involving race and diversity, among others.

During Buzbee’s tenure as executive editor, AP reporters won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for their coverage of the war in Yemen. That same year, AP’s reporting on the Trump administration’s migrant family separation policy was a Pulitzer finalist.

Buzbee said she plans to relocate to Washington later this month. She has two daughters, Emma, 21, and Margaret, 20. Her husband, John Buzbee, who was a foreign-service officer and Mideast specialist at the State Department, died in 2016.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post’s media reporter. He started at The Post in 1988 and has been a financial reporter, a political reporter and a Style reporter.

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