Changes of command often occupy the most complicated areas of the media marketplace. In quick succession, a family dynasty is about to end at The Washington Post when Katharine Weymouth steps down as publisher on October 1, to be replaced by one Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. Ms. Weymouth was advised of impending change by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos in mid-August; the news organization went public with it on Tuesday.
Mr. Ryan, 59, is an astute lawyer and entrepreneurial-minded journalistic entity who founded Politico seven years ago and was the former president of Albritton Communications, which was bought by Sinclair Broadcasting, the deal finalized only last month.
Whether Mr. Ryan's political heritage comes into play is an interesting dynamic. He served in the Reagan White House beginning in 1982, and was ultimately named "Assistant to the President," this according to White House records. Mr. Ryan went on to write two books about Ronald Reagan and produce a documentary; he is chairman of the board of trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, and remains close to Nancy Reagan.
"Ryan's background in Republican politics also is certain to raise questions about the direction of The Post's editorial page, among the most influential in the nation," wrote Post reporter Craig Timberg in the new's organization's own account of the events.
"Ryan said he planned to keep the newspaper's current executive editor, Martin Baron, and its editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt. Ryan said he did not anticipate changes in The Post’s editorial policies and would protect the independence of the newsroom, saying Baron 'does a superb job'."
The publisher-in-waiting appears ready to rumble with the competition.
"You don't shrink your way to success," he said. "The Post is on the move."
Ms. Weymouth departs with grace.
"Fred is a seasoned and well-respected executive with a track record of success at the helm of Politico and Allbritton Communications. He knows Washington, and he knows media," she wrote in an open letter to Post employees, adding "Now it is time for new leadership."
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