Former Washington Post Editor Says Surprise Sale to Jeff Bezos Was ‘Brave and Unselfish’

By
Brauchli. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Although his rocky tenure atop the Washington Post masthead ended unceremoniously, Marcus Brauchli will be remembered as the last full executive editorship of the storied Graham family era. Brauchli, who remains a vice-president at the soon-to-be-renamed Washington Post Company, was replaced by Martin Baron at the end of last year, but he knows better than anyone the hurdles facing a storied newspaper that was slow to adapt online and has seen its readership decline under its longtime owners. With an eye on the future and preserving the Post's historic brand, Brauchli told Daily Intelligencer today, "What Don Graham did in deciding to seek out a new owner for the Washington Post was a truly brave and unselfish act."

In his view, "For somebody to inherit an institution like the Post, which truly was his family's very public legacy, and then make the decision that it could be better placed in other hands, was magnanimous and wise, which I think are two characteristics that I will always associate with Don Graham," whose grandfather bought the Post in a 1933 bankruptcy sale.

"When I learned of the news, I was as surprised as everyone else," said Brauchli, who took over the paper in 2008 after leaving The Wall Street Journal because of its own new boss, Rupert Murdoch. "But on immediate reflection, I thought that in the universe of potential buyers, among people who have long-term vision, who are civic-minded and public-spirited, Jeff Bezos was an eminently suited candidate."

While Brauchli said he appreciates Bezos's reputation as a customer-first entrepreneur, he warned that journalism is not Silicon Valley. "Owning any news organization is a very public role, and invariably it puts you in conflict with other people who are powerful and about whom your news organization is writing or publishing news," he said, describing a class that includes Bezos himself, not to mention Amazon. "I'm certain that Jeff Bezos knows that and is aware of the complications that will present themselves, but the corollary is that owning a great publication like the Post presents extraordinary opportunity to advance the conversation in society, and to serve the public interest, and to pursue truth and right wrongs. Those are attractive attributes that pull people toward media."