One of the most versatile talents of the modern Washington Post has been talking with Publisher Katharine Weymouth about running its newsroom. David Von Drehle, who left the paper in 2006 for a post at Time magazine, has interviewed with Weymouth, according to two Post sources, and has written a memo on how to guide the paper through these difficult times.
When asked for a comment on the matter, Von Drehle did not deny his candidacy but declined to elaborate on his discussions with Weymouth.
Earlier this spring, Weymouth launched a hush-hush search to replace longtime Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. Among other top candidates for Downie’s job are current Post Managing Editor Phil Bennett, former Wall Street Journal top editor Marcus Brauchli, and Jonathan Landman, the Web boss for the New York Times. Landman’s candidacy was reported earlier this week by Politico.
During a 15-year career at the Post, Von Drehle worked as a national correspondent, the top editor of the Style section, and a magazine writer, in addition to other postings. He was master of what’s known at the Post as the “Haynes Johnson” story—that is, the broad-brush analysis piece that mixes writerliness and thinkiness to the day’s top news story. He’s also an accomplished author of books, including Triangle: The Fire that Changed America, about an historic blaze in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Weymouth’s search is a sprawling thing, involving talks and breakfasts and lunches and coffees with many of the leading lights in journalism. Discussions with nicely credentialed people can harden into something resembling an interview process. The first stage appears to be a one-on-one with Weymouth plus a memo on the Post; the second is more formal, involving a trip to the paper and interviews with the ranking people on the commercial side, including Bo Jones and Steve Hills. The third is serious shit—talks with Downie and perhaps Chairman of the Board Donald Graham.
Thus far, at least two people—Landman and Brauchli—have made it to the Downie stage. Von Drehle has made it to the second, according to a Post source. It’s not clear where Bennett stands in the vetting.
Weymouth didn’t respond to a list of questions on her editor search. One of those questions concerned dates. Though informed sources say the publisher is working without a deadline, other informed sources say things should go pretty quickly from this point. In other words, who knows?
The job candidates sound like job candidates when called about the interviews. No comment, it wouldn’t be appropriate, I’m sorry—those are among the refrains. Nor are the candidates too eager to be spotted commuting from office to office at 15th and L. Landman, for instance, wanted to sneak in and out of town but made the mistake of having breakfast with Downie at the Hay-Adams Hotel, which doubles as an off-site cafeteria for the New York Times‘s Washington bureau.
Dean Baquet, the Times‘s D.C. bureau chief, happened to be there at the same time. Busted!