City Paper is not for tourists
After weeks of speculation and uncertainty surrounding the VRIP, I want to address both the sea change we are undergoing and the future I see. Response to the VRIP was strong. Over the next few weeks and months, we will be saying goodbye to many well-loved and respected colleagues. We will miss you. As you embark on new and exciting stages of your lives, I hope that all of you will always consider yourselves a part of the Washington Post family.
While there are lots of questions about the future of print newspapers, I am confident that The Washington Post has a bright future. The world is changing, but the principles that guide us are permanent, and are platform-agnostic. The ways in which we break news and tell stories will continue to evolve and change as technology and readers’ habits evolve and change. The challenge is at once daunting and thrilling: reinventing the newspaper—in some senses, the news itself—for a new century. What excites me is what I hope reassures you: that we begin this transformation armed with the ideas and passion of the people of The Washington Post. Yes, the audience is more elusive and harder and to keep—but audiences come for great journalism and great presentation and great thinking, all of which we offer in abundance, and always will. Yes, it is difficult to bring younger readers into the fold—but younger readers will respond to us if we meet them where they live with stories and features that they find they can’t do without, a task which we are already embracing, and will continue to pursue. Yes, people say there is a diminishing role for the authoritative mainstream media organization—but we have never taken our authority for granted; we have to earn it every day, and every hour.
We will need creative thinking from everyone — from those of you who produce for the web, to those of you who create content to those who print the newspaper, sell the ads, market our products and deliver them, as well as those who work behind the scenes in Accounting, Building Services, IT, Legal and HR.
The coming months will be tough as we figure out how to restructure and compensate for the loss of our departing colleagues. We must and will find new ways to do things. Maintaining the quality of what we do is essential. Creating superior, accurate, creative and relevant journalism is our mission. I do not think I am overstating it when I say that our work, and that of our brethren in the industry, is at the heart of our democracy. We are more committed to those efforts than ever before.
In searching for words that capture our mission, I found a memo written by my grandfather, Phil Graham, in 1951: “The pledge of The Washington Post is to hew to the course developed in the 17 years since it was refounded [referring to the purchase of the newspaper by his father-in-law, Eugene Meyer]. . . The Post is an independent newspaper, standing for programs rather than parties, for measures rather than men. It is grounded in its local community, wedded to the tradition of our country, fixed with a love of liberty, capable of indignation over injustice and aware of [the] destiny and responsibility of America as a world leader. To live up to these aspirations, The Washington Post must count on the initiative and energy and character of its several hundred staff members. . . . There are no mass-production methods of publishing an independent newspaper. The individual efforts of members of the staff are indispensable to success. . . The standing instructions to The Washington Post staff are to follow neither mob nor any ‘line,’ but to pursue the principles of independence under which this paper has grown.”
I honor the past, but my heart is in the present, so that we can build a future together. News organizations are teams in the truest sense: it takes different people doing different jobs to win. In tough economic times, with the way we do business and the way we do journalism shifting at cyberspeed, remaking The Washington Post won’t be easy—but the things worth doing rarely are.
Katharine Weymouth Publisher, The Washington Post CEO, Washington Post Media