Katharine Weymouth | Page 2 of 2

Katharine Weymouth

An interview with the Washington Post publisher in the Post Bezos Era

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What would you do over?
I would’ve understood earlier how critical technology is in this new world. [But] I don’t focus on regrets. I focus on moving forward. You must experiment and try new things.

Talk to us about “Salon-gate,” the proposed series of private dinners or salons at your house in 2009. Prominent persons would have paid $25,000 to $250,000 to attend up to 11 such events, where they would have gotten to meet with Post journalists. You received a lot of criticism over that.
There never was a dinner. There was simply a flier. Yes, I wouldn’t do it. I view it as a blip on the radar. But out of it came a fantastic conference business. That was my goal all along. I believe it’s OK to try things and make mistakes. My grandmother said, “You will make mistakes.”

It has been widely noted in the media and in the newsroom that you received large bonuses (more than $600,000 in 2012, with $2.4 million in total compensation) even as the newsroom staff was being reduced and news bureaus closed. Any comment?
That’s a question for the board and the compensation committee. I’m held to results. I delivered. The year I took over, the Post lost well over $100 million. I got us in the black in two years. I think it’s OK to be paid for delivering results.

When you hired Marcus Brauchli, formerly with The Wall Street Journal, to become the Post’s executive editor in 2008, you were quoted as saying, “That’s my first big decision. If I do it right, that person will be around for a long time.” Why did you go outside the paper, and why did you replace him?
My focus was on transforming us for the digital age. I was looking for an editor over both print and the Web. I thought Marcus was a great choice. He oversaw the transition of the newsroom. He created a terrific team. He oversaw some fantastic coverage. But I think Marty Baron [the former Boston Globe editor who was hired at the end of December 2012 to become the Post’s executive editor] is the right editor to take us forward.

The New York Times reported that Brauchli resisted more newsroom cuts.  
Marcus was a terrific editor. He oversaw the integration of the newsroom [with the website], hired great talent and oversaw great coverage. Marty Baron is the editor who will bring us into the future. I hired Marty because of his stature as an editor. 

Will there be more staff reductions?
Our focus is on serving our readers, not about [staffing] numbers per se. During Watergate, the golden age, the staff was a lot smaller than it is today. Our goal is hiring the best reporters and editors and producers for video. [Staffing] we will have to assess over time. We are trying to cut costs but not coverage. We will keep [foreign] coverage as robust if not more robust. We’d rather have our journalists on the street. We don’t want reporters to be spending a lot of time in buildings, physical offices; we want them out reporting.

You abolished the position of the ombudsman, who responded to reader complaints and also wrote a weekly column of criticism and commentary assessing Post coverage. Now there’s a reader representative who simply restates what readers are saying on a particular subject in his online posts.
The world has changed a lot. We need to change, too. The ombudsman became obsolete because there are now tons and tons of media critics. That role is not necessary anymore. 

How do you read The Washington Post? On what platform? And when?
I do all of it: I read it on my iPad at night, the [print] paper in morning, I go online during the day. I watch the Post videos. I’m the classic of my gender—I do not read sports first; I read the front page, Metro, Style, then sports.

How do you like living in Washington compared with Manhattan?
I prefer it. I love living here, raising kids here. I love the skyline. Washington has the culture, and much better restaurants over the past 10 years.

Why did you choose Chevy Chase, D.C., instead of, say, Georgetown or Potomac?
Georgetown I couldn’t afford, and parking there is difficult. It’s important to me to walk places, like Starbucks, the dry cleaners, Safeway. I needed space for three children and three dogs—I have lots of pets [I was] talked into by my children. I take [the dogs] to Lafayette [Elementary School field] and to Rock Creek [Park]. We are not a cat household. My son and I are allergic. My kids are 9, 11 and 13, two strong girls and a boy in the middle. I feel lucky.

It can’t have been easy for you. You’re a single mother, and one of your daughters is now recovering from a horseback riding incident.
It was my youngest daughter who fell off her horse and broke her arm badly. After multiple complicated surgeries over two years, she has regained use of her arm, but still is not able to use her left hand. She is incredibly strong and funny, and doesn’t let it get in her way at all.

What do you do in your copious spare time?
I don’t have any. I try to hang out with my kids. I run and travel. I love to travel out West, where we can hike during the summer and ski during the winter. This summer I took the kids to South Africa, and we went on a wonderful safari. I love to cook. When I cook, I like to try new things. My favorite is a Washington Post recipe for white chocolate crème brûlée. I make a lot of fish, and I love making summer soups. I love to read.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading [An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943] the first of Rick Atkinson’s trilogy [about the American role in the liberation of Europe during World War II]. I just read Traps, by Jeff Bezos’ wife [MacKenzie]. It’s her latest novel, and it’s about four women from different walks of life. I am so in awe of her, taking care of her husband, raising four children and writing novels.

As a single mother who’s also the Post publisher, what’s your daily life like?
I definitely do a lot of juggling. My kids are at two different schools in three different buildings. On the mornings I am in town, I wake up at 5:50, go for a 2-mile run with my friend Carolyn, end at Starbucks—couldn’t live without it—come home, make breakfast for the kids and lunch for one, take the dogs out, feed the dogs, put drops in one dog’s eyes, drive the kids to three different drop-off points, and get to work by 9:30. My day is typically filled with meetings.
At the end of the day, if I don’t have a business dinner, I go home to have dinner with the kids, catch up with them, make sure they have done their homework and put them to bed. Sometimes we have a family night watching Homeland or Scandal. Otherwise, like every other single parent, I pay the bills, run the house, fill out the school and camp forms, make the doctor appointments, make the play dates, schedule the activities, buy the groceries, cook, put furniture together, and I’m not too bad with a cordless drill.

Eugene L. Meyer, a former Washington Post writer, is a longtime contributing editor at Bethesda Magazine. To comment on this story, email comments@bethesdamagazine.com.

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