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Washington Post publisher to step down

Sept. 3: The Washington Post announced yesterday that its publisher, Katharine Weymouth, was stepping down, signalling the end of the Graham family’s connection to the newspaper it owned for 80 years before selling it last year to Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

Weymouth will be succeeded by Frederick J. Ryan Jr, the founding chief executive of Politico and a former Reagan administration official. He starts on October 1.

Weymouth, a granddaughter of Katharine Graham, the longtime Washington Post publisher, was the last major link to the family that had taken on a sitting President during the Watergate scandal and transformed the paper into an American institution.

Her uncle, Donald E. Graham, was the chairman of The Post before selling to Bezos, and it was expected that Bezos would bring in his own publisher to oversee the paper’s business operations.

Since Bezos paid $250 million for The Post last summer, many had thought he might apply the kind of disruptive and innovative business strategies to the struggling newspaper business that he has demonstrated at Amazon.

Under his ownership, the paper has hired dozens of journalists and focused more intently on The Post’s digital enterprise. But Ryan’s appointment is the first prominent leadership change.

Ryan, 59, helped start Politico in 2007 along with several Washington Post journalists who created a website focused on politics. He also served as chief operating officer of Politico’s parent company, Allbritton Communications.

Reaction to his appointment was mixed in Washington, and in media circles. “He is a very savvy guy, a very competent guy,” said Bill Lord, who worked closely with Ryan as the general manager at WJLA-TV.

“He may be running the business end of things, but he is very friendly to journalists.”

Ryan used his connections with the Reagan family to help secure Politico’s involvement in presidential primary debates. But others who worked closely with him expressed surprise that Bezos, renowned as an innovative thinker, would appoint a publisher described by many as the quintessential, conventional Washington insider.

At Politico, Mr. Ryan obsessed over the details of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, a celebrity-driven black-tie event attended by the media and politicians.

 
 
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