Washington Post’s Sunday Night Editorial Massacre

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This morning’s Washington Post newsletter – The 7 – offered a peek into the outlet’s ideological bent.

The seven topics offered to subscribers before 7:00 a.m. to help them catch up, in order presented:

1 — Mexico elected its first female president yesterday.

2 — Hunter Biden’s trial on criminal gun charges begins in Delaware today.

3 — President Biden announced a new cease-fire plan for Gaza.

4 — Anthony Fauci is set to testify in Congress today.

5 — Billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used for tuition at religious schools.

6 — Simone Biles won her ninth national all-around title.

7 — A Chinese spacecraft landed on the “dark” side of the moon yesterday.

That’s right: the U.S.’s fourth largest newspaper by number of subscribers feels that Hunter Biden’s trial is more important than the Biden administration’s efforts to stop the genocide in Gaza.

Never mind the protests across the country over the last six months which have spurred numerous horserace polling articles as well as coverage of conflicts on U.S. campuses.

The trial isn’t even being held in D.C. which the Washington Post calls home.

At the very bottom of the newsletter is this news blurb:

Before you go … some news from The Post: Sally Buzbee, our executive editor since 2021, has stepped down.

How benign that sounds. Happy trails, Ms. Buzbee, good luck on your future endeavors.

Except this is what happened, reported last night:

Steve Herman @[email protected]

Washington Post – Matt Murray, former Editor in Chief of The Wall Street Journal, will replace Sally Buzbee as Executive Editor until the 2024 U.S presidential election, after which Robert Winnett, Deputy Editor of The Telegraph Media Group, will take on the new role of Editor.


Jun 02, 2024, 10:58 PM

Did Buzbee leave willingly? WaPo’s certainly not telling us. It’s as if Buzbee accidentally fell out a window leaving a vacancy.

Here’s the first two paragraphs from the WaPo’s own report on the shakeup:

The Washington Post today announced Sally Buzbee has stepped down as Executive Editor. Buzbee has been with The Washington Post since 2021, leading the newsroom through the turbulence of the pandemic and expanding its service journalism, including Climate and Well+Being. Under her leadership, The Washington Post has won significant awards, including the recent Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

Matt Murray, former Editor in Chief of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), will replace Buzbee as Executive Editor until the 2024 U.S presidential election, after which Robert Winnett, Deputy Editor of The Telegraph Media Group, will take on the new role of Editor at The Washington Post, responsible for overseeing our core coverage areas, including politics, investigations, business, technology, sports and features.

Why would WaPo allow an Executive Editor who oversaw award-winning work to “step down”? Why would they promptly replace that EE with a temporary placeholder, and one who operated in a very different news organization?

It seems incredibly convenient that former Murdoch-News Corp editor Matt Murray will run WaPo just until the election.

Then WaPo will be helmed by an editor from a British conservative right-wing news organization, because we don’t have enough of our own Tories in media here. We need to rescue from Brexit import a Tory from a flailing media outlet overseas.

Not to mention Robert Winnett leaves a British paper with a subscriber base one-third the size of WaPo and with far less domestic and international impact.

When WaPo announced their slogan in 2017 – Democracy Dies in Darkness – one month after Trump was inaugurated, most observers scratched their heads. Would WaPo truly shine a light on that which is intent on killing our democracy? Would the paper be up to what has proven to be a monumental task?

But in hindsight we didn’t see that slogan for what it was. WaPo warned us it was going to turn off the lights. This abrupt change in editorial executives moving the paper further to the right is an indicator of yet more dimming of a truly free press.

50 replies
  1. Molly Pitcher says:

    From Politico:

    “WAPO SHOCKER — SALLY BUZBEE is out as the Washington Post’s executive editor after a three-year run, to be immediately replaced by former WSJ editor in chief MATT MURRAY and, after the election, by the Telegraph’s ROBERT WINNETT . Both have previously worked under WaPo Publisher and CEO WILL LEWIS .

    The announcement came in an 8:38 p.m. news release and landed as a thunderbolt to the Posties we spoke to, who were uniformly shocked by the sudden timing of Buzbee’s departure, if not necessarily by the fact of it. It was an unusually abrupt transition for the Post, where top leadership transitions are typically announced months in advance. (The newsroom did not immediately have a story ready to publish and, adding insult to injury, the NYT managed to get theirs up first .)

    The buried lede: After Winnett takes over the “core” newsroom in November, Murray will lead a “third newsroom … comprised of service and social media journalism and run separately from the core news operation. The aim is to give the millions of Americans — who feel traditional news is not for them but still want to be kept informed — compelling, exciting and accurate news where they are and in the style that they want.”

    • Rayne says:

      Yeah, like a guy from Murdoch’s WSJ has a solid grip on the kind of news which will draw in news consumers who don’t consume traditional media.

      That’s such a crock of shit. If WaPo’s management thought Murray was doing something right, they have cognitive problems; WSJ has a massive subscriber base because of the captive business audience already established by Dow Jones before WSJ’s purchase, AND that subscriber base can afford their subscriptions. A large percentage write off the subscription as a business expense — hardly a non-traditional approach to media consumption.

      • Knowatall says:

        Even though I knew Katherine Graham as a child (me, not her!), it’s time to move on from the WaPo; I’ll be canceling my subscription. What other online papers would you recommend?

        • 3balls2strikes says:

          Personally, I scroll through several sites: AP, Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, Democracy Now, and Reuters. I also use a pretty obscure news aggregator website called Mike the Mad Biologist (https://mikethemadbiologist.com/), which in addition linking to news articles also has links to science news.

        • Rayne says:

          I have subscriptions to NYT and WaPo I would ditch in a heartbeat if they weren’t necessary to what this site does. Both have become increasingly toxic.

          I also have a subscription to the Detroit Free Press (Freep) which is now a Gannett/USA Today network paper. While I don’t like Gannett in general, the Freep has been able to maintain a left-of-center POV in comparison to its conservative competitor, the Detroit News. They’re both instructive if you compare their front pages periodically; for example, DN has a story on the Hunter Biden trial on the front page today while Freep doesn’t. I recommend making a similar comparison of papers in your state and picking one to support.

          I also have a subscription to LAT which I find invaluable because papers west of the Rockies are less likely to include stories about AAPI Americans. It’s also worth comparing the news on the west coast to that of flyover and east coast outlets — huge difference.

          Online I support ProPublica, have made donations to some of the outlets which have a Mastodon presence to encourage continuation in federated social media.

          I’ve subscribed to McClatchy’s Miami Herald in the past which has had excellent reporting on Trump and Mar-a-Lago.

          I suggest browsing periodically the former Newseum Front Pages for making comparisons between papers before picking one or more. Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times are another interesting pair worth comparing today — ideology of owners and editors is rather clear.

      • Theodora30 says:

        Will Lewis is not just a British journalist he comes from Rupert Murdoch’s UK rightwing tabloid operation. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he is now installing others from Murdoch World in top positions at the flailing WaPo.

        “ Did Washington Post publisher ‘pervert the course of justice’ under Murdoch?
        Will Lewis, now chief executive of an eminent US newspaper, stands accused of destroying crucial phone-hacking evidence when working for the Murdoch empire”

      • BobBobCon says:

        That “third” piece was explicitly tied to AI, and that makes it even dumber.

        There is no way that kind of mush is going to generate readership or profits. It’s a fantasy that AI can somehow generate buzzworthy headlines and ledes that will generate clicks and ad revenue like the online economy was still 2009.

        The core of the Post’s readership base and advertising is in the DC metro area, and that’s shrinking badly as the execs gambled on national political coverage at the expense of local coverage. AI is just not going to be able to fix that either.

        This has the stench of Zuckerberg’s pursuit of the Metaverse, except the Post doesn’t have the Facebook cash cushion. It’s really hard to see what the plan is.

  2. Fancy Chicken says:

    I’ve posted before about how heartbroken I’ve been over shit at WaPo for over a year as I grew up with it.

    But this is the final straw for me. My subscription ends on the 10th, thank god I pay monthly, and that’s it. Going to the Guardian with my money.

    I hope Bezos is stained forever for driving WaPo into the ground with a Murdoch sledge hammer.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Notionally, there will be one new top editor after the other, not two new top editors at a time. But it never works out that way.

    Among other things, this is the sort of move that will magnify internal chaos and take a chainsaw to the grapevines that make an organization work. During a hotly contested political campaign with global implications. Staff will ask how do I fit in? Whose priorities govern? And what does that mean for me and my work?

    Who controls becomes a muddle, which conveniently hides accountability, but it works wonders for torching a going concern.

    • Sue 'em Queequeg says:

      Honestly, they could just say “Democracy Dies Here”. Or “Democracy Dies in Darkness, but Since it’s Not Quite Pitch Black We’ve Been Forced to Resort to Murder.” Less catchy, but perhaps more accurate.

      • Rayne says:

        With the injection of more than one fascist-enabling editors, I lean toward Democracy Murdered Here But WaPo’s Betting On Plausible Deniability.

    • Raven Eye says:

      “We could stand in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and shoot an executive editor and not lose any subscribers.”

  4. LaMissy! says:

    Well, WaPo’s not wrong about number 5. The redirection of public money to the unaccountable hands of religious and other private schools is a part of the dominionist xtian nationalist takeover. Remember, despite all the noise about “school choice” it’s the schools that do the choosing, not the kiddos. Those schools can refuse to admit students for any reason, or none at all. Our public schools, complete with their flaws and challenges, are a cornerstone of democracy.

    • Magbeth4 says:

      The push to privatization of everything in America has come to my community and State (Florida), now infecting schools which have been highly rated, but on the chopping block because “there aren’t enough students to justify the expense of running the schools.”

      After complaining for years about over-crowding and its affect on the quality of education, now the Right-wingers who are pushing Charter Schools (which are unaccountable to the taxpayers whose money is funding them) are “upset” that they have become too small.

      Wherever these schools have been targeted, the neighborhoods surrounding them have put out signs in support of the school and for bombarding the School Board members who came up with these proposals. Democracy’s parents are going to have to work overtime to stop the madness which DeSantis and his Corporate sponsors has unleashed.

  5. Magbeth4 says:

    The drift to the Right has been obvious even before this change of Editors. One could read it in the headlines, which, many times, did not reflect the content or the intent of the article.

    I cancelled two times, both because of headline deception which I complained, were very misleading, and seemed designed to give people in a “rush” to make assumptions which they might not have had if they had read the article.

    There are good writers at the Post, but it is not worth even the 25 cents/week rate they keep slapping across the front page when it loads.

    Let’s face it: the Oligarchs have twisted this country into the direction they want, to increase their profits while delivering the least value for the money. This encompasses Media of all kinds, manufacturing, education, and, the greatest enablers, Courts and Congress. How well we fight this will take a lot of imagination and integrity.

    • BobBobCon says:

      I don’t think this is about profits except in some kind of vague circular reasoning handwaving fantasy.

      I think a good comparison is to Chris Licht’s disatrous time running CNN for the benefit of John Malone. He made the occasional obligatory claim that he was trying to grow the audience, but nobody could see even the weakest hint of a plan for that.

      The Post’s new path is going to do nothing to stop the bleeding. It may well speed it up by dumping huge sums on the new “popular” offshoot that is almost certainly going to fail like Jimmy Finkelstein’s “The Messenger” which was another rich guy’s fantasy that cratered in a remarkably short time.

      • Rayne says:

        I’m trying to decide if this is a genuine attempt to grow WaPo but poorly thought out — this is not Britain, WaPo has a place in US history which shouldn’t be reduced to a Murdochian manure spreader.

        Or is this a roll-up by one of the richest guys who’s decided owning a paper isn’t doing him any favors and he can’t leave it to wind down through entropy. Did he decided he’s going to burn what’s ailing him on the way out, throwing some sketchy managers at the place to see if they can do the job faster?

  6. Ebenezer Scrooge says:

    Which is worse: NYT or WaPo? Reasonable minds may differ.

    The one thing I can say in favor of WaPo is that they have some editorial self-awareness. They know they’re wired for the right. (Pardon me: “economically conservative; socially liberal.”) The NYT honchos remain convinced that theirs is the path of journalistic perfection.

    • Just Some Guy says:

      NYT has Jamelle Bouie and the crossword, the only two reasons that I still have a subscription.

    • Rayne says:

      And now that editorial difference may no longer exist. Hell, WaPo’s editorial management change is so overt, the NYT will struggle to catch up.

  7. chrisanthemama says:

    Five months before the presidential election, which isn’t gonna both-sides itself.

  8. Cort Youngen Greene says:

    The NY Times, Washington Post and many legacy media outlets, joining the mock and tankie press and media in their “United Front for Fascism”, sad day but it happened before in Europe back in the day with the support of big business their and from the US.

  9. NaMaErA says:

    WaPo is no longer a reliable news source. Some boner named “Dan Balz” had this subhead under his “Election 2024 Analysis | Trump’s guilty verdict sharpens the two big questions of this election” headline:

    “Voters will have to decide whether Biden or Trump poses the bigger threat to the future of the country, and which candidate will make their lives better than they are today.”

    What. The. Actual. F%ck.

    Just the absolute worst kind of bullshit what-aboutism & false equivalency & navel-gazing & bed-wetting imaginable; Ben Bradlee & Katherine Graham must be spinning in their graves.

    • P J Evans says:

      I hope Ben and Katherine can come back and haunt the current owner, manager, and editors. Every night. All night.

    • Rayne says:

      Balz has utterly collapsed. I’m rarely surprised anymore when I see his name attached to such both-sides-ery.

    • Thomasa98 says:

      I watched All The President’s Men Saturday night. That’s a ghost of Graham and Bradly to haunt the current publisher. I have it on Laser Disc. Hope it’s available in modern formats.

    • CovariantTensor says:

      I saw this headline and had the exact same reaction:WTAF? I didn’t bother to read the article.

      I first became familiar with the Balz byline when many, including Balz, were opining that it was no big deal a leaked memo from a British diplomat said he was under the impression the intelligence was being “fixed around” the desire to invade Iraq. So it’s not clear to me what he has collapsed from.

  10. Molly Pitcher says:

    Rayne, Rachel Maddow is reporting tonight, that last Thursday, the FBI and two US Prosecutors from DC interviewed the Michigan State Police officer who turned away the Michigan fake electors. Apparently there is an active investigation still ongoing regarding the fake electors there, and it was said that the Michigan State Republican HQ is being treated as a crime scene.

    She interviewed a reporter from a Detroit paper who verified all of this.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks, Molly. Wonder if it was the MSP officer seen on video telling the fake electors the real electors were already in the building on December 14. Think it was the Detroit Free Press (a Gannett paper) which caught the video in reporting at the time.

      I’ve wondered if somebody tipped off the Democratic electors to be there well ahead of time.

  11. Eschscholzia says:

    Over the course of today, WaPo had 3 or 4 updates or replacement articles with different headlines but substantial content pasted from previous versions, and all online in the “style” section (late in the day they added a hagiography bio “New post editors Matt Murray, Robert Winnett praised for tough journalism”). I hope someone was alert and saving the versions of the story to archive.org: I couldn’t from my work computer.

    The money quote from the first version:

    In his brief remarks, Murray did not share his specific editorial priorities, though he mentioned a few specific stories that will be top priorities for The Post, including the presidential election, the Donald Trump trials and the trial facing Hunter Biden.

    Lots of ire in the comments about Hunter Biden being Murry’s #2 priority.

    By the 2nd version I saw, the story was that Sally Buzbee wanted the major organizational changes to wait until after the election when things might slow down. Lewis didn’t want to wait; then he wanted Buzbee to lead the new “service and social media journalism” division.

    The 3rd or so & current version include some quotes from Murry’s introductory meeting with the newsroom staff.

    “The most cynical interpretation sort of feels like you chose two of your buddies to come in and help run The Post,” she said. “And we now have four White men running three newsrooms.”

    Lewis reaffirmed his commitment to diversity while acknowledging that “I’ve got to do better, and you’ll see that going forward.”

    I guess I disagree with Murry and Lewis, but reverting WaPo editorial leadership to 4 conservative old white men just doesn’t seem “growth” & “future-focused” to me, and I meet 3 of those 4 criteria.


  12. CaptainCondorcet says:

    A decade ago in my political communications graduate class the joke was that the Post was for right-wingers who couldn’t bear to watch Fox News. Shame to see they just continue to double down even further.

  13. David F. Snyder says:

    When Marty Baron retired, the Post began its downward spiral. Though, their reporting on the economy even under his tenure was not great. Still, it was a reasonable paper to get a pulse on the political leadership. But then, then … Bezos noticed he had a newspaper (cf. https:// www. nytimes.com/2023/07/22/business/media/jeff-bezos-washington-post.html )

    Bo Burnham explains it comically:

    https:// youtu. be/7_EeCkHs-e0?si=_u3UPBSYkGCICGOC

  14. RitaRita says:

    I renewed my annual digital subscription in April, so I am stuck.

    WaPo is now offering a Premium subscription. Someone at the WaPo is high on their own supply.

    Over the past year, I’ve noticed that the digital edition is increasing the number and prominence of health and wellness, travel, and social etiquette articles. One of the few articles covering the Trump civil fraud trial was by the Style editor commenting on Alina Habba’s dress.I guess its model is Parade Magazine.

    The WaPo has run some good series – the one highlighting issues in continuing care retirement communities was particularly good. Carol Leonnig is good. Alexandra Petri is a hoot. Philip Bump is perceptive, especially when he does more than recite polls. And the Capital Weather Gang does good explanations of how climate change is affecting weather. I wonder where they will end up.

    • NohRef23 says:

      I had the bad-luck experience of an annual auto-renew the day before yesterday. But just 10 minutes ago, when I initiated a cancel order anyway, they offered a 50% refund of the annual subscription fee. So at least we have the pleasure of knowing they’re desperate. You might give canceling a try even though you renewed in April.

      Their economic reporting has been terrible for years, their political coverage (until lately) marginally less both-sidesy than the Times. The only edge they’ve had over the latter is that they allow reader comments on virtually every story and don’t censor them as readily as the fingers-in-its-already-deaf ears Times.

  15. GSSH-FullyReduced says:

    Remember Jen Ruben’s “Right Turn”?
    Then MAGA happened.
    Then she made a port tack.
    Now the fascist gales knocked her down…

  16. CarlLewistoo says:

    Another very interesting read about the Murdoch ties and tactics. https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/ideas/media/phone-hacking/66047/did-washington-post-publisher-pervert-the-course-of-justice-under-murdoch

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the SAME USERNAME and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. You published this comment as “Carl Lewis”; I have corrected it this one time to match your previous username “CarlLewistoo.” Make a note of your correct username and check both your browser’s cache and autofill. /~Rayne]

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Another blunt backgrounder from Dan Froomkin on Will Lewis, his short tenure at the WaPo, and his two new hires. Good links and several zingers. Lewis apparently interviewed no women or people of color for his two senior hires. He must be a member of the Garrick Club.

    Lewis obviously doesn’t like answering questions from people under him. He tried to end his little talk by demanding that someone ask him the “penultimate” question, then mansplained that “penultimate” meant the second to last question. Carol Leonnig must have enjoyed that.

    But Lewis was testy throughout. When asked pointed questions – by journalists whose job is to ask pointed questions – Lewis blamed the troops, not the senior staff giving them marching orders: “Your audience has halved in recent years. People are not reading your stuff. Right. I can’t sugarcoat it anymore.”

    As if any reporter thought Lewis put sugar on the announcement of his staffing changes. Vitriol, more likely. Mary Poppins he’s not. (For Lewis’s benefit, “vitriol” means bitterly harsh or caustic criticism.) Are we sure Elmo didn’t hire him?


  18. Molly Pitcher says:

    Hey Rayne, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/05/business/media/washington-post-buzbee-lewis.html

    From NYTimes: “Weeks before the embattled executive editor of The Washington Post abruptly resigned on Sunday, her relationship with the company’s chief executive became increasingly tense.

    In mid-May, the two clashed over whether to publish an article about a British hacking scandal with some ties to The Post’s chief executive, Will Lewis, according to two people with knowledge of their interactions.

    Sally Buzbee, the editor, informed Mr. Lewis that the newsroom planned to cover a judge’s scheduled ruling in a long-running British legal case brought by Prince Harry and others against some of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids, the people said.

    As part of the ruling, the judge was expected to say whether the plaintiffs could add Mr. Lewis’s name to a list of executives who they argued were involved in a plan to conceal evidence of hacking at the newspapers. Mr. Lewis told Ms. Buzbee the case involving him did not merit coverage, the people said.

    When Ms. Buzbee said The Post would publish an article anyway, he said her decision represented a lapse in judgment and abruptly ended the conversation.

    The interaction rattled Ms. Buzbee, who then consulted with confidants outside The Post about how she should handle the situation. When the judge ruled several days later, on May 21, that Mr. Lewis could be added to the case, The Post published an article about the decision.”

Comments are closed.