- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

The leadership of The Washington Post is still in the family: The newspaper named Katharine Weymouth as publisher yesterday, with an additional role as chief executive officer of Washington Post Media.

Ms. Weymouth, 41, has a formidable news pedigree: She is the great-granddaughter of Eugene Meyer, who bought The Post in 1933 at public auction, paying $825,000, and as publisher authored the front-page motto, “A free, truthful and decent press.”

She also is the granddaughter of Katharine and Philip L. Graham, who between them served as publishers of The Post for a quarter-century.

Her mother is Lally Weymouth, a Newsweek correspondent. Her uncle is Donald E. Graham, Post publisher from 1979 to 2000 and currently chief executive officer of The Washington Post Co. Ms. Weymouth is the fifth member of the family to hold the title of publisher, and she plans to use some of her uncle’s wisdom.

“Don gave me a piece of advice I have never forgotten,” Ms. Weymouth said yesterday. “He said, ‘Katharine, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room; you just have to surround yourself with the smartest people in the room. And then listen to them.’ That is exactly what I intend to do.”

“Katharine is ready for this. She’s Kay Graham’s granddaughter, but that’s not why she’s getting this job,” Mr. Graham said. ” She’s had a rare combination of big jobs at both the newspaper and the digital company. In all those jobs, she’s shown herself to be smart, decisive, modest and a great manager of people.”

Ms. Weymouth, who graduated from Harvard University and Stanford Law School, joined the paper in 1996 as assistant legal counsel, later moving to the paper’s online publishing and advertising departments.

She succeeds Boisfeuillet Jones Jr., who has been publisher for the past eight years. Yesterday, Mr. Jones was named vice chairman of The Washington Post Co. and chairman of the newspaper.

The infrastructure is complicated, but indicative of the nature of an equally complicated and often treacherous media landscape.

“This is a pivotal time for the press as the traditional old media and new media converge. A long-established and distinguished family dynasty is continuing here, but changes are being made to ensure that The Washington Post remains competitive and nimble. It could prove a deft strategy,” said Thomas P. McDevitt, president of The Washington Times.

“While the parent Washington Post Co. recently acknowledged it was now primarily an education company with a media component, its sibling, The Washington Post, is still a strong force in journalism and a fine competitor,” he added.

“Publishers are not going to have all the answers. But it is the job of a publisher to build an organization which can discover those answers,” said Butch Ward, a leadership analyst for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based press watchdog.

“The great irony is that many newspapers are reaching more readers than ever via the Internet. How can they capitalize on that broader reach to generate more revenue? The challenge facing every publisher is to guide the company, make it innovative and nimble, be willing to make mistakes — and learn from those mistakes,” Mr. Ward said.

The Post’s changing of the guard is bittersweet.

Mr. Jones announced yesterday that a “voluntary retirement incentive program” — buyouts, in the vernacular — would be offered to some employees next month “in light of the current economic environment and to assure the future strength of the business.” About 60 people could be affected, Harry Jaffe of the Washingtonian said yesterday.

The Post’s daily circulation is 638,000 from Monday through Saturday, down from a high of 832,232 in 1993. In the past five years, 120 persons left the staff through buyouts.

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