Jeff Bezos names former Reagan Chief of Staff Fred Ryan new publisher of Washington Post
Ryan was the founding CEO at Politico and replaces Katharine Weymouth beginning October 1
The Washington Post today announced that Katharine Weymouth is being replaced as publisher by former Reagan Chief of Staff Fred Ryan. Ryan, 59, worked in the White House the full eight years of the Reagan administration and was even the President’s post-Chief of Staff until 1995.
Ryan then joined Allbritton Communications as president and was the CEO of Politico from its founding in 2007, leaving the company “to “pursue other career options” just a year ago. Those other career options, it turns out, involve the Post.
“I welcome Fred and thank him for agreeing to become The Post’s next Publisher and CEO. I know he’s excited to meet the team and roll up his sleeves,” Jeff Bezos, owner of the Post and CEO of Amazon.com, said in a statement.
The move to the Post means that the reign of Katharine Weymouth as publisher of the Post has ended, and with it the last ties to the former owner the Graham family. Weymouth is the granddaughter of Post’s chairwoman and publisher Katharine Graham, who died in 2001.
The question on everyone’s mind will be whether Ryan has been brought on because of his politics, or because of his digital media experience. This move has obviously been in the works from the beginning, with the sale of the Post announced in early August of last year, but the official close date on the deal being October 1 – and exactly one year later a new publisher will start at the paper.
Update: early reaction from journalists such as Dan Froomkin of First Look Media are predictably negative, with Froomkin writing on Twitter that “This does not bode well.”
Steve Buttry, formerly of the newspaper company Digital First Media, also tweeted his disappointment: “I figured Bezos would eventually replace Weymouth w/ a great innovative leader who would transform WaPo. I was wrong.”
The reactions are predictable because many journalists, for whatever reason, thought Bezos’s purchase of the Post had something to do with newspapers or journalism… rather than politics.
Bezos is in a war with book publishers and other vendors, not to mention other tech companies. He needs all the friends he can get in the nation’s capitol and the Post is a great tool to achieve that end. That his new publisher also has experience with online media is a big plus, to be sure.
Publisher Katharine Weymouth has issued a statement announcing her resignation October 1 (though, really, can you “resign” from a position where your replacement has already been announced?).
Her statement is a recap of what she feels she has accomplished as publisher:
“I am tremendously proud of all that we have accomplished. Our business model is strong. And under Marty Baron’s leadership, our journalism has never been better,” Weymouth writes. “We have embarked on revelatory investigative projects while also giving our readers stories and videos that reflect the joy and humor in life. We have uncovered corruption, shown the real-world impact of economic upheaval, and provided unequaled coverage of the Obama administration’s first and now second terms. We have shown courage in reporting on wars and unrest all over the world, and we exposed how the government’s anti-terrorism technology poses profound civil liberties issues for Americans. We have never forgotten our local community, highlighting issues of public safety and providing readers the information they need to be engaged citizens. As a result, we have more readers today than ever.”
Weymouth closes bidding farewell, but also reminding readers exactly why she was named publisher in the first place: “I will miss you all. The Post will always feel like a part of me. I will read it every day in print and online. And, like my uncle, I will be cheering from the sidelines.”