Fred Ryan to Leave Washington Post After Nine Years as Publisher

From a Washington Post story by Elahe Izadi and Will Sommer headlined “Fred Ryan to leave Washington Post after nine years as publisher”:

Fred Ryan, the publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post for most of the decade since it was bought by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will leave the company in August, he announced Monday.

Ryan, 68, will lead the newly formed nonpartisan Center on Public Civility at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

Patty Stonesifer, the founding chief executive of the Gates Foundation and a director on Amazon’s board, was named the interim CEO of The Post on Monday, and is leading the search for Ryan’s replacement.

Ryan said he has long been passionate about the issues at the core of the center’s mission, saying “the decline in civility is threatening the foundation of our democracy.” A former Reagan administration official, Ryan called it “a bookend for something I did early on in my career.”

Ryan is leaving The Post at a tumultuous time in the media industry of layoffs and declining audience numbers, to which The Post has not been immune. Ryan said his departure “has nothing to do with that” and “I firmly believe there is a sound model for successful journalism and The Washington Post is well positioned to do that,” he added. “I have no doubt that the high-quality journalism of the standard of The Washington Post will always be successful.”

Bezos’s 2013 purchase of The Post was a watershed event for the media company, ending 80 years of stewardship by the Graham family as he took the company private. One of his first major moves was to hire Ryan, the founding CEO of Politico, whom he charged with expanding the reach of The Post’s ambitions into a national and global news operation.

At the time, the majority of The Post’s revenue came from its print business, and it had about 35,000 digital subscribers. Now, Ryan said, the majority of The Post’s revenue comes from its digital business, and it has about 2 million digital subscribers.

Ryan presided over The Post during a period of rapid expansion, growing from around 600 newsroom employees to nearly double that size today.

One of his biggest responsibilities was to hire a new executive editor to replace Martin Baron, who retired in 2021. Ryan selected Sally Buzbee, the former top executive for the Associated Press, who became the first woman to serve as The Post’s executive editor.

His tenure also coincided with the chaotic years of the Trump presidency, when The Post and other media companies saw record levels of digital traffic and a boom in subscriptions. In the final weeks of the Trump administration in January 2021, The Post counted 3 million digital subscribers.

But those figures leveled off after Trump left office and the coronavirus pandemic ebbed. The Post ended the past year in the red after what Ryan called six years of “significant growth and profit.” (The Post is a private company that does not disclose its financials.)

Ryan oversaw several cutbacks in his final months as publisher, including the elimination of the Sunday magazine, the KidsPost children’s section and a section devoted to video game coverage. At a December town hall, Ryan angered some Post employees after he announced there would be layoffs in January then refused to take questions about the anticipated job losses, which ultimately affected 20 staffers.

Shortly before Ryan came to company, Post reporter Jason Rezaian was arrested in Iran on false charges of espionage. To build a campaign for his release, Ryan met with White House officials and asked foreign leaders visiting The Post to press Iran to free the reporter. After 545 days in prison, Rezaian was released in January 2016 in a prisoner swap.

“We had to keep Jason’s plight in the forefront,” Ryan said in a 2019 Post documentary about Rezaian’s arrest.

In his Monday memo about Ryan’s exit, Bezos called Ryan a “relentless force” for the release of wrongfully arrested reporters.

Stonesifer said: “I have both respect and passion for the mission and the journalism of The Washington Post — one of the greatest newsrooms in the world — and I am delighted to join this team in supporting the values and sustaining the work of this important institution.”

Elahe Izadi is a reporter covering media and also co-hosts daily flagship podcast “Post Reports.” She joined The Post in 2014 as a general assignment reporter, and has covered pop culture, Congress, demographics and breaking news.

Will Sommer is a media reporter for the Style section, specializing in covering conservative media and conspiracy theories. He’s the author of “Trust the Plan: The Rise of QAnon and the Conspiracy That Unhinged America,” a book covering the QAnon movement.

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