City Paper is not for tourists
Washington Post Managing Editor Phil Bennett is stepping down. The memo:
To the Staff,
Four years ago, Len asked me to become managing editor. It was an invitation to help create great journalism, and to guide the newsroom through our own story of change and renewal. The challenges and rewards of this incredible job were bigger than I could have imagined; so has been the honor of working with you. Now that the transition between Len and Marcus is complete, I’ve decided it’s the right moment for me to move on to new things. I will step down as managing editor at the end of the week.
I came to the paper in 1997, one more convert from a Bill Hamilton sales pitch. Since then, my belief in The Post has been strengthened by every hour I’ve spent in this newsroom, and especially by the trials of the last few years. These are dark days in parts of the news business, but a brilliant time for journalism. This was never clearer for us than last year, when we won a record number of Pultizer Prizes and lost an unprecedented number of our colleagues to buyouts. We showed, despite everything, that with powerful journalism and a place to stand, you can still move the world.
For me, the stories have always been our best measure. Dana and Anne inside Walter Reed; Finkel in Kosovo, then Yemen for his Pulitzer; Rajiv and Anthony during the invasion and occupation of Iraq; Wil Haygood composing an American storybook through lives like Eugene Allen’s, the White House butler; Bart Gellman and Jo Becker on Dick Cheney; the collective triumph of the Being A Black Man series, the coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre, the operatic richness of our 2008 campaign coverage.
Katharine and Marcus have shown their determination to confront our challenges by relying on the same principles of journalism excellence that made this paper a vital American institution. Everyone who cares about the future of our democracy has a stake in The Post’s continued success. As the eyes of the world turn to Washington again this month, and are fixed here for months to come, they will be looking to you for the story.
I’m leaving some of my best friends here, and I will hopefully have a chance to thank many more of you in person. I want to recognize here my special debts to Karen DeYoung and Bill Hamilton for hiring me onto the national desk, to Bob McCartney and David Hoffman for being such wonderful partners during my five years as AME/Foreign, to my compadres and predecessors as managing editor Bob Kaiser and Steve Coll, to Bo Jones for his support and to Tom Wilkinson for his wise counsel.
Working beside Len Downie was a privilege I won’t forget, and I am grateful for his trust, example and friendship. I’ve never met anyone whose love of daily journalism burns more brightly. When I started as a reporter in Lima, Peru the last thing I dreamed of was that someday I’d have a chance to do a job like this one. It’s been a blast. The wonder of it never wore off, even on the toughest days.
Finally, I want to express my thanks to Don Graham for inspiring and defending this newsroom, and for his kindnesses to my family and me over the years. Don is a champion of quality journalism and journalists. He is also a leader in the search for ways to make sure that both continue to thrive. Next week, I’ll move to the 9 th floor to work for Don on a project relating to the future of the news business. I will be writing, thinking about what’s next — and pulling for you.
Thank you for all of it.