Thomas P. McDevitt, president of The Washington Times, said that while some critics once predicted the newspaper wouldn’t last a month, “The Washington Times has held its own in the news media landscape for three decades. We owe that to loyal readers who have appreciated credible news coverage and shared our values over the years.”
Leon Transeau, a former federal government worker, small-business owner and nonprofit executive, is one such reader.
The Times “has been there when other papers were not, on story after story,” said Mr. Transeau, who is retired and now lives in Delaware. “You guys have been a leader in getting important news to the American people that does not get into the other media. For me and a lot of people I know, it’s essential reading.”
Ed Kelley recalls being a fan before he became an employee, taking over as the paper’s editor last year after a longtime stint as a reporter and editor with The Oklahoman.
“I read The Times every day during a posting in Washington in the late 1980s, just a few years after the paper was launched,” he said. “I admired it for its scrappy attitude and willingness to take on the journalistic group-think of Washington. And I liked specific touches: lots of color on its pages when color wasn’t necessarily in vogue, strong metro coverage and the best sports section in town.
“Later, after I left Washington, I was able to keep up with The Times’ journalism through its website, and saw the same attributes that helped establish the organization’s brand 30 years ago. My impressions of strong reporting on politics and other key areas that have been important to readers for three decades have been reinforced many times since I returned to D.C. to be The Times’ editor.”
Breath of fresh air
From the outset, The Times proved to be a breath of fresh air for conservatives looking for a mainstream, professional news outlet that honored their principles and gave voice to their discontents. A daily multipage Commentary section, filled with writers not given platforms in other “prestige” media, quickly became essential reading for some, including one of the paper’s earliest fans, President Reagan.
Addressing a group of YMCA “youth governors” at a June 1984 Rose Garden event, the Gipper ad libbed: “If you really want to get some history on this when you leave here, get a copy of The Washington Times.”
Bo Hi Pak, the Korean businessman and diplomat who served as The Times’ first president, said the paper’s role was “not to bend to the right,” but to “provide the balance so obviously lacking in many other major newspapers.”
If its editorial pages carved a distinctive conservative identity, the newsroom’s willingness to skewer the powerful on an equal-opportunity basis earned it fans — and readers — across the ideological spectrum.
“I will reliably report to you that it was an awful lot of fun in a Democratic White House to read The Washington Times every day, [with its] great insights into the infighting among movement conservatives,” President Clinton’s White House spokesman Michael McCurry told The Times for the volume marking the newspaper’s 20th anniversary. “It skewered the Clinton administration on a regular basis, but we turned to The Washington Times to find out what the other side, the Republicans, were doing. … The Times has much better sources on the right than much of the mainstream press.”
The paper’s commitment to national defense and the value of military service led to some of the most focused and substantive coverage of issues facing the military of any mainstream news outlet in the country, from matters of grand national strategy to the gripes and frustrations of ordinary grunts and their families, tracked in depth in a column by “Sgt. Shaft.”
Taking the lead
The paper proved itself repeatedly willing to pursue stories and scandals that the established media gatekeepers dismissed or overlooked: the book-publishing deals that brought down Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright; the House Bank scandal; the reprimand for Rep. Barney Frank; Whitewater and the personal scandals that dogged Mr. Clinton throughout his presidency; the massive Promise Keepers march on Washington; the ethical shortcomings of a string of D.C. mayors; China’s military buildup and its efforts to infiltrate the American military and commercial establishment; the international tug of war over the fate of a Cuban boy named Elian Gonzalez; the crippling Republican infighting over the tenure of party Chairman Michael S. Steele; the coaching merry-go-round that has undermined the once-mighty Redskins; the long-running policy debates on immigration, education, religious freedom and the decline of the family; and the recent Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.