Happy Weymouth, Happy WaPo

The woman who brought us the Pay2Play Salons is also bringing us–or rather, bringing advertisers–nothing but happy stories.

At least that’s what I take away from this WaPo story, which works hard to deny that a story about a young woman cheerfully adjusting to body image issues after amputation was spiked because Katharine Weymouth had decreed that the WaPo Magazine needed to have happy stories. But the story reveals that Weymouth wasn’t just spiking one story, she was delivering nothing but happy stories for her advertisers.

Weymouth, publisher of The Post, told the story’s author, freelance journalist Matt Mendelsohn, at a brunch earlier this year that advertisers "wanted happier stories, not ‘depressing’ ones," Mendelsohn wrote in an online posting. His story was about a 26-year-old woman whose arms and legs had been amputated.

Weymouth said Monday night that any impact she had was "completely inadvertent, because I would never interfere in an editorial decision and I had no intention of interfering." She said that she had not even read Mendelsohn’s story, but that she had "used it as an example" with editors "of the kind of fare we should be moving away from."

The rest of the story features two editors describing a significant shift in direction.

Brauchli said the story was caught in a "big shift" at the Sunday magazine after its previous editor took early retirement this year and during a change in editorial emphasis.


Sydney Trent, the magazine’s acting editor at the time, said she declined to run the story "because it was clear the newspaper wanted to move in a different direction.

But the best explanation for what that big shift is is away from stories about dwarves getting their legs lengthened and away from "overly long, overly narrow" stories. Or, alternately, that the WaPo has adopted, as a general policy, a happy-only policy.

In case you’re wondering, this story does not mention any discussion about quality.

49 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    In case you’re wondering, this story mention any discussion about quality

    Missing a word or two before mention?

    Why would her advertisers care about happy news? Cute kittens do not sell newspapers, scandal does. And they want happy stories during the Obama administration? That’s got be annoying to the folks who really control WaPo’s contect.

    Boxturtle (We want happy stories, EXCEPT nothing positive should reflect toward Obama)

      • scribe says:

        That strikes me as essentially correct.
        If everything is happy, happy, joy, joy all the time in the media, then the problems which do exist will not exist, because no one will see them.

        We remember the Great Depression because, after all, FDR made a point of sending photographers and artists and reporters (writers) out to get those stories and record them.

        We remember the carnage of Vietnam because, after all, CBS, NBC and ABC brought it into your living room at dinner time.

        We do not remember the dislocations and economic hardships (and there were a lot) of the 1970s because, as anyone who was conscious during that decade will tell you, that was the decade of “Happy News”. All the newscasters and news readers and disc jockeys (back when radio had human voices coming from it) were relentlessly, incorrigably, and uniformly upbeat. Ridiculously so. And, no, it was not the effect of ready access to quaaludes.

        That emphasis on Happy News also made possible a lot of getting away with stuff by people whose misdeeds, if covered, would not have fit into the Happy News model.

        And that’s why ownership wanted it then, and wants it now.

        • fatster says:

          Yes, and Ronald Reagan rode the happy-talk/happy-faces wave right into the WH and kept it going with his happy talk and happy face while his administration did so much damage.

  2. BoxTurtle says:

    Weymouth better be careful, she’s running out of reputation to sell.

    Boxturtle (I thought we’d decided WHAT you are, we were just haggling about price – Twain(?))

  3. WilliamOckham says:

    Weymouth said Monday night that any impact she had was “completely inadvertent, because I would never interfere in an editorial decision and I had no intention of interfering.” She said that she had not even read Mendelsohn’s story, but that she had “used it as an example” with editors “of the kind of fare we should be moving away from.”

    I am constantly amazed by the MSM’s ability to produce paragraphs like this. How on earth can they cram so much contradiction into one paragraph? Weymouth is saying that when she used the story as an example of what the Post shouldn’t do, she had no intention of having an impact on editorial decisions. Shorter Weymouth:

    Who will rid me of this meddlesome story?

    • Justinajustice says:

      So right! And speaking of the missing quality, I am astounded that the publisher of a major national newspaper admits that she did not even read the story that she then used as an example of “the kind of fare we should be moving away from.” Suspect she only reads the numbers in financial statements, not news stories. Once upon a time, newspaper owners, editor and publishers were presumed to be literate; not any more, now only numbers are important.

  4. R.H. Green says:

    “…its previus editor tok early retirement this year and during a change in editorial emphasis.” Perhaps someone of some integrity told the publisher to take her happy policy and shove it.

  5. klynn says:

    Now WaPo has gone full force on the happy print-info-ad methodology, ditching real news. She should be a feature personality on Discovery Channel’s, Pitchmen. Of course they could make the show gender neutral and just call it, Big Pile of Pitch, or The Big Pitch or The Pitch Is Back.

    That is why I do not have cable. I do not want to be paying for advertising channels, let alone ads.

    Boy, she likes to be paid. Interesting editorial policy.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Actually, the advertising channels reduce the price of your cable, in theory. Those channels actually pay a fee to be carried.

      And Ads are the reason I have dish. I record everything and with the push of a button all undesired content is skipped. Other than football, I watch almost no live TV. A 1 hour network show lasts just under 45 minutes.

      To keep it on topic (I know, too late), do you suppose that any of WaPo’s subscribers will cancel because of this? Or will most of them remain blissfully ignorant that anything is going on?

      Boxturtle (One vote for blissful ignorance)

    • SaltinWound says:

      From her grandmother’s 1988 speech to the CIA:

      We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.

  6. skdadl says:

    “the kind of fare” — for some reason, that makes me think of hors d’oeuvres. I’m sure Weymouth thinks of quality in that sense — that and the numbers, as Justina @ 11 points out.

  7. Mauimom says:

    I’m in DC and saw this story in the print edition [never go to their web page]. Immediately thought of you and was going to send it, but see you’re quicker than my brain.

    Thanks, Marcy. WaPoo is disgusting.

    As I recall Howie Kurtz had his usual sniveling involvement on this — or perhaps another matter — as well.

  8. Rayne says:

    Well, it’s about time.

    Finally the great and mighty WaPo comes out and admits it’s just infotainment.

    Immaculately conceived, of course, nobody to blame, but infotainment.

    It would be nice if they just came to grips that even in the infotainment industry, they are worthless. HuffingtonPost.com is still kicking their ass, even months after we compared them because of the pay-for-play crap.

  9. knowbuddhau says:

    Saw this comment by Michael Moore, on media in Europe v. America, in Harper’s yesterday:

    Michael Moore: “Two main things I want to say: Why aren’t the newspapers in Europe going under? It’s not that newspapers in Europe are having an easy time—again, we’re in an economic recession that’s worldwide, but why aren’t they going under? The American newspapers, oh they say ‘It’s the Internet. Papers are getting killed by the Internet.’ Last I’ve heard they’ve got the Internet in Europe. And they’ve got the Internet in Japan. So why aren’t their papers folding like ours are going under? European, Japanese, other countries many, most, of their newspapers, the primary source of their funding is circulation. Advertising is second. In our country, advertising is the primary source of funding, circulation is second. Anything [sic] you say that the people who read your newspaper are secondary to the business community you’ve lost, eventually you’re not going to survive at that point when you’re primary concern is the advertiser. In Europe, they know in order to keep circulation up they better put out a damn good newspaper. They better put out something that people read, and they better not cut too many reporters because if certain beats aren’t being covered, people aren’t going to read the paper. –“Michael Moore: ‘Capitalism killed the newspaper’” Harpers.org Links Emphasis added.

    Is he right about revenues? And can anything save the necrotic organs of propaganda that deliver not true news, but false myths?

    Did they think they could dance on the Dark Side with the Dark Lord without getting the stench of deceit on them? We see through their masks, that’s the problem, Can they conceive of doing business any other way? I doubt it. Propaganda is what you get when you apply Newton’s laws of mechanics to rhetoric. Look at the attempts to “shout down” and shut down town halls.

    Words are being used like tiny energy packets fired at target audiences with the intent to force changes in the target relative to its pre-existing momentum. They really are firing on us!

    Poor Weymouth: it wasn’t supposed to work out like this. We were supposed to be greeted as liberators, and then rewrite the history, end of story; but nosy kids and DFHs have spoiled the feast, damn us all to hell.

    It’s a truism that our intentions are evident in our actions; intentions materialize realities, whether we hide them or not. We can see what they did to us, jacking us into this god-forsaken Waste Land, and there’s no stuffing that back up the fundament it comes from.

    They-WaPo in particular and the other war-mongers–expected to get away with war crimes committed in broad daylight under the cover of myths of an evil, implacable, absolute Other outside each of our front doors with WMDs; they still might get away with it.

    They used on us, and continue to use, weapons-grade propaganda running on the power of myth. So if their precious poisoned organs corrupt, wither, and die, they have only their own hubris to blame.

    It’s the “Ring of power” theme played out in real-life. Myths are supposed to be our trusted guides; perverted into weapons, they become our own worst enemies.

    You know what the difference is, between a blogger and a propagandist? Real bloggers bust myths; propagandists deploy them.

  10. Leen says:

    “, a happy-only policy.”

    That would seem to be the theme when you click on your T.V. Hell you can flip through hundreds of channels and not see or hear one mention of what is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan etc.

    If the U.s. military and government of the U.S. learned anything from Vietnam it was do not show the American public what is really going on. Let them stay in the bubble where they are happy

  11. klynn says:

    BoxTurtle @ 14

    in theory.

    Key words.

    Spent a week recording the amount of minutes in advertising on a cable provider vs the minutes in non-advertising broadcasts. Did some math. My math told me it was not a good buy for our family in terms of our viewership habits.

  12. Leen says:

    Bet the Wapo will not be writing about this or anywhere else in their “happy” news

    You can bet your ass Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann those “liberal media” folks will not be reporting about this
    Israel violated international law during Gaza war: UN


    Israel violated international humanitarian law and used disproportionate force during its assault on the Gaza Strip eight months ago, a UN fact-finding report said Tuesday.

    The report said Israel deliberately attacked civilians, failed to take precautions to minimize loss of civilian life and cited strong evidence Israeli forces committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Convention.

    The firing of white phosphorous shells and the use of high explosive artillery shells were listed as “violations of humanitarian law.”

  13. i4u2bi says:

    This reminds me of a woman who could have lost her legs but didn’t because she didn’t have to look for the truth. Later she won the 350 million dollar lottery and donated 300 milion of it to Pat Roberts University where she obtained a degree in Rapturism. She married a billionair and lived happily ever after in a special section of Disneyland..the end!

  14. JohnEmerson says:

    Can’t Auntie Tina of the Talking Head straighten the little girl out?

    Weymouth’s photo on the company website shows Miss Smirky McSmirk. Perhaps she’s been hired to be the fall gal for the Wapo’s collapse.

    /gross sexism

  15. dakine01 says:

    When the pay-for-play thing broke, I checked out the wiki’s for Kay Graham and Katherine Weymouth both and one thing stood out for me.

    Kay Graham had worked as a very junior reporter, doing all the scut work associated with it and actually learned the business.

    Katherine Weymouth became a lawyer, joined the WaPo0 via their Counsel’s office then was named head of advertising.

    Those two pieces of information, especially the latter piece, explain so much about the path Weymouth is choosing for the Post.

  16. Clavis says:

    It makes sense. With the destruction of the middle class proceeding apace, the New York Times will only eventually have two classes of patronage: the people rich enough to afford the paper, who will only want to read happy stories about how well they and their fellow rich folk are doing, and the people sleeping under the newspaper on the street, who won’t be able to read anything, anyway.

  17. Prairie Sunshine says:

    Judd Gregg not-so-happily trying to weasel to Andrea Greenspan on the polling of doctors on public option. Whole lotta splutter and weak-assed sickly grinnin’ goin’ on….

    Why GOP dying, too.

  18. DeanOR says:

    Here’s a happy story: The Left is pissed off enough to matter. I’ve been waiting 40 years for this resurgence. We’re even publicly talking about blowjobs. Print that, WaPo.

  19. klynn says:


    in a way…

    This was front page of the Financial Times:

    Happiness, long holidays and a sense of well-being may not be everyone’s yardstick for economic performance, but Nicolas Sarkozy believes they should be embraced by the world in a national accounting overhaul.

    France’s president on Monday urged other countries to adopt proposed new measures of economic output unveiled by a panel of international economists led by Joseph Stiglitz, the US Nobel Prize winner.

    It seems “happy” is the new black. See EW, WaPo is just getting the word out!

  20. Mauimom says:

    Weymouth, publisher of The Post, told the story’s author, freelance journalist Matt Mendelsohn, at a brunch earlier this year that advertisers “wanted happier stories, not ‘depressing’ ones,”

    Because that is SO what the newspaper business is about: pleasing advertisers.

    I wish Buffett would grow a pair and dump Berkshire’s investment in the Washington Post.

    • Rayne says:

      I think Buffett realizes he’s really invested in Kaplan; would like to know when Buffett’s going to force Kaplan and WaPo divisions to get a “divorce,” so that WaPo could go through a bankruptcy and the market could do as it does so well. (Insert .wav file from the movie Jaws here…)

  21. JohnEmerson says:

    For Soros or Buffett to buy a national TV network or a national newspaper and run it honestly would be more valuable than anything else they could do. Money spent on elections, the way the Democrats work, just goes down the drain and mostly ends up in the pockets of a hostile big media and various toesucking mercenary consultants. There’s really no residue or net gain to build on, it’s all pissed away. (”Party-building” money is all diverted to the immediate goal. In many respects the party leadership does not want a strong people-based party, because it would be harder to control and harder to milk.)

  22. SouthernDragon says:

    Michael Moore made some interesting comments at TIFF the other day. Among other things he said that newspapers “slit their own throats” by relying on revenue from advertisers rather than circulation. He gave European papers as an example of the differences.

  23. tinman1967 says:

    Yes, people like scandals but scandals aren’t really what you’d call depressing. Depressing news belongs in the National Enquirer or on FDL.

  24. freepatriot says:

    let the ignorant and the repuglitarded read their “happy stories”

    while the rest of the country works to solve the mess that the ignorant and the repuglitarded left behind them

    reality will bite them in the ass in November of 2010

    I got faith in Karma

    btw, I hate happy stories, so I ain’t the wapo’s target audience any way …

    • scribe says:

      I did once this summer. But, then again, I was at a remote fishing camp (one of the other guys there was from DC and had picked up a copy on the way) and by that time was ready to read the ingredients on the can of bug spray.

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