The top-of-Page-1 headline of the Aug. 6 Washington Post was gigantic in size as well as message:
“Grahams to sell the Post”
One of the two Page 1 stories of this event reported the following:
“Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham and Post publisher Katharine Weymouth, his niece, broke the news of the sale to a packed meeting of employees at the company’s headquarters in downtown Washington on Monday. The mood was hushed; several veteran employees cried as Graham and Weymouth took turns reading statements and answering questions. ‘Everyone who was in that room knows how much Don and Katharine love the paper and how hard this must have been for them,’ said David Ignatius, a veteran Post columnist who was visibly moved after the meeting.”
How much do Graham and Weymouth actually love the Washington Post?
They love it only $250 million worth. That is the amount of money they are accepting – in cash – to sell it to Jeff Bezos, the Internet retail mogul, who in some 60 days will become its new owner.
Mr. Bezos told the Post:
“I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan. This will be uncharted terrain, and it will require experimentation.”
To which I say: “Right, indeed. So how about installing some editorial and news coverage balance – since the presently left-wing Washington Post has lost 44 percent of its circulation?”
The Post quoted Chairman Graham as saying:
“Every member of my family started out with the same emotion – shock – in even thinking about” selling the Post. “But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings.”
Think about that.
Realize that the price of altering Mr. Graham’s love of owning the Washington Post is one-quarter of a billion dollars.
Graham went on to say:
“The Post could have survived under the company’s ownership and been profitable for the foreseeable future. But we wanted to do more than survive. I’m not saying this guarantees success, but it gives us a much greater chance of success.”
If the Post could really have survived under the Grahams’ ownership, why on Earth did the Grahams – who won worldwide fame running the Post – decide to sell it?
Because, I strongly suspect, they knew it was already in big financial trouble and would probably not survive. So why didn’t they admit it?
“We were certain the paper would survive under our ownership, but we wanted to do more than that. We wanted it to succeed.”
This Washington Post sales report of the Washington Post newspaper had just one brief paragraph about the following major scandal – for which former Executive Editor Ben Bradlee should surely have been fired, but was not fired:
“Seven years after Nixon’s resignation, however, the paper suffered one of its darkest hours. It was forced to give back a Pulitzer Prize awarded to reporter Janet Cooke in 1981 after she admitted that her story about an 8-year-old heroin addict in Washington named Jimmy was a fabrication.”
Now, among 16 Medal of Freedom recipients, President Obama has decided to award the nation’s highest civilian honor to the 91-year-old Bradlee – more than 30 years after his scandalous tolerance of former Post reporter Janet Cook.
And – Bradlee’s fellow recipient of this supposedly highest civilian award – will be (are you sitting down?): “Ah-did-not-have-sex-with-that-woman!” Bill (“Slick Willy”) Clinton.
In 1993, the Washington Post’s daily circulation was 832,332. By March of this year, that figure had plummeted to 474,767.
No wonder Graham called Bezos “a uniquely good owner” – to buy anything whose lifeblood of circulation has dropped so far down.
And no wonder the New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. commented:
“Will our family seek to sell the Times? The answer to that is no. The Times is not for sale.”