The Washington Post is an American daily newspaper. It is the most widely circulated newspaper published in Washington, D.C., and was founded in 1877, making it the area's oldest extant newspaper.
Located in the capital city of the United States, the newspaper has a particular emphasis on national politics. Daily editions are printed for the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The newspaper is published as a broadsheet, with photographs printed both in color and in black and white.
The newspaper has won 47 Pulitzer Prizes. This includes six separate Pulitzers awarded in 2008, the second-highest number ever given to a single newspaper in one year. Post journalists have also received 18 Nieman Fellowships and 368 White House News Photographers Association awards. In the early 1970s, in the best-known episode in Post history, reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led the American press's investigation into what became known as the Watergate scandal; reporting in the newspaper greatly contributed to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. In years since, its investigations have led to increased review of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
In 2013, the newspaper was purchased by Jeff Bezos for $250 million in cash. The newspaper is owned by Nash Holdings LLC, a holding company Bezos created for the acquisition.
The newspaper is also known as the namesake of The Washington Post March, composed in 1889 by John Philip Sousa.
The Washington Post is generally regarded as one of the leading daily American newspapers, along with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The Post has distinguished itself through its political reporting on the workings of the White House, Congress, and other aspects of the U.S. government.
Unlike The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post does not print an edition for distribution away from the East Coast. In 2009, the newspaper ceased publication of its National Weekly Edition, which combined stories from the week's print editions, due to shrinking circulation. The majority of its newsprint readership is in District of Columbia and its suburbs in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
The newspaper's weekday and Saturday printings include the following sections:
- Main section, containing the front page, national and international news, business, politics, and editorials and opinions
- Metro section, containing local news
- Style section, with feature writing on pop culture, politics, fine and performing arts, film, fashion, and gossip, along with advice columns and comics
- Sports section
- Classified advertising
Sunday editions largely include the weekday sections as well as Outlook (opinion), Arts, Travel, Comics, TV Week, and the Washington Post Magazine. The Sunday Style section differs slightly from the weekday Style section; it is in a tabloid format, and it houses the reader-written humor contest The Style Invitational.
Additional weekly sections appear on weekdays: Health & Science on Tuesday, Food on Wednesday, Local Living (home and garden) on Thursday, and Weekend, with details about upcoming events in the local area, on Friday. The latter two are in a tabloid format.
The newspaper is one of a few U.S. newspapers with foreign bureaus, located in Baghdad, Bogota, Cairo, Hong Kong, Islamabad, Jerusalem, Kabul, London, Mexico City, Moscow, Nairobi, New Delhi, Paris, Shanghai, Tehran and Tokyo. In November 2009, it announced the closure of its U.S. regional bureausÂ â" Chicago, Los Angeles and New YorkÂ â" as part of an increased focus on "...political stories and local news coverage in Washington." The newspaper has local bureaus in Maryland (Annapolis, Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland) and Virginia (Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun County, Richmond, and Prince William County).
As of May 2013, its average weekday circulation was 474,767, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, making it the seventh largest newspaper in the country by circulation, behind USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. While its circulation (like that of almost all newspapers) has been slipping, it has one of the highest market-penetration rates of any metropolitan news daily.
For many decades, The Post had its main office at 1150 15th Street NW. This real estate remained with Graham Holdings when the newspaper was sold to Jeff Bezos' Nash Holdings in 2013. Graham Holdings sold 1150 15th Street (along with 1515 L Street, 1523 L Street, and land beneath 1100 15th Street) for $159 million in November 2013. The Washington Post continued to lease space at 1150 L Street NW. In May 2014, The Washington Post leased the west tower of One Franklin Square, a high-rise building at 1301 K Street NW in Washington, D.C. The newspaper will move to its new offices in 2016.
Founding and early period
The newspaper was founded in 1877 by Stilson Hutchins (1838â"1912) and in 1880 added a Sunday edition, thus becoming the city's first newspaper to publish seven days a week. In 1889, Hutchins sold the newspaper to Frank Hatton, a former Postmaster General, and Beriah Wilkins, a former Democratic congressman from Ohio. To promote the newspaper, the new owners requested the leader of the United States Marine Band, John Philip Sousa, to compose a march for the newspaper's essay contest awards ceremony. Sousa composed The Washington Post. It became the standard music to accompany the two-step, a late 19th-century dance craze, and remains one of Sousa's best-known works.
In 1898, during the Spanishâ"American War, The Post printed Clifford K. Berryman's classic illustration Remember the Maine, which became the battle-cry for American sailors during the War. In 1902, Berryman published another famous cartoon in The Postâ"Drawing the Line in Mississippi. This cartoon depicts President Theodore Roosevelt showing compassion for a small bear cub and inspired New York store owner Morris Michtom to create the teddy bear.
Wilkins acquired Hatton's share of the newspaper in 1894 at Hatton's death. After Wilkins' death in 1903, his sons John and Robert ran The Post for two years before selling it in 1905 to John Roll McLean, owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer. During the Wilson presidency, The Post was credited with the "most famous newspaper typo" in D.C. history according to Reason magazine; The Post intended to report that President Wilson had been "entertaining" his future-wife Mrs. Galt, but instead wrote that he had been "entering" Mrs. Galt. When John McLean died in 1916, he put the newspaper in trust, having little faith that his playboy son Edward "Ned" McLean could manage his inheritance. Ned went to court and broke the trust, but, under his management, the newspaper slumped toward ruin.
The newspaper was purchased in a bankruptcy auction in 1933 by the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve's board of governors, Eugene Meyer, who restored the newspaper's health and reputation. In 1946, Meyer was succeeded as publisher by his son-in-law, Philip Graham.
In 1954, the newspaper consolidated its position by acquiring and merging with its last morning rival, the Washington Times-Herald. (The combined paper was officially named The Washington Post and Times-Herald until 1973, although the Times-Herald portion of the nameplate became less and less prominent after the 1950s.) The merger left The Post with two remaining local competitors, the afternoon Washington Star (Evening Star) and The Washington Daily News, which merged in 1972 and folded in 1981. The Washington Times, established in 1982 by a subsidiary of the Unification Church, led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon (1920â"2012), has been a local conservative rival with a circulation (as of 2005) about one-seventh that of The Post. In the late 2000s additional editorially conservative competition increased with the foundation of the tabloid "The Examiner" of Washington by the new owners of the old Hearst paper, the "San Francisco Examiner" who engineered a swap trading the larger, more prosperous "San Francisco Chronicle" for the former Hearst "flagship" paper. They also started several other tabloid "Examiners" in several American cities, including briefly for two years in "Baltimore Examiner" going against the 170-year old "Baltimore Sun".
After Phil Graham's death in 1963, control of The Washington Post Company passed to Katharine Graham (1917â"2001), his wife and Meyer's daughter. Few women had run nationally prominent newspapers in the United States. Katharine Graham described her own anxiety and lack of confidence based on her gender in her autobiography. She served as publisher from 1969 to 1979 and headed The Washington Post Company into the early 1990s as chairman of the board and CEO. After 1993, she retained a position as chairman of the executive committee until her death in 2001.
Her tenure is credited with seeing the newspaper rise in national stature through effective investigative reporting after it began to live down its reputation as a house organ for the Kennedy and Johnson administration, working to ensure that The New York Times did not surpass its Washington reporting of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate scandal. During this time, Katharine Graham also oversaw the Post company's diversification purchase of the for-profit education and training company Kaplan, Inc. for $40 million in 1984. Twenty years later, Kaplan had surpassed the Post newspaper as the company's leading contributor to income, and by 2010 Kaplan accounted for more than 60% of the entire company revenue stream.
Executive editor Ben Bradlee, a Kennedy loyalist, put the newspaper's reputation and resources behind reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who, in a long series of articles, chipped away at the story behind the 1972 burglary of Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington. The Postâââ'ââs dogged coverage of the story, the outcome of which ultimately played a major role in the resignation of President Richard Nixon, won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 1973.
In 1972, the "Book World" section was introduced with Pulitzer Prizeâ"winning critic William McPherson as its first editor. It featured Pulitzer Prizeâ"winning critics such as Jonathan Yardley and Michael Dirda, the latter of whom established his career as a critic at The Post. In 2009, after 37 years, with great reader outcries and protest, "The Washington Post Book World" as a standalone insert was discontinued, the last issue being Sunday, February 15, 2009, along with a general reorganization of the paper, such as placing the Sunday editorials on the back page of the main front section rather than the "Outlook" section and distributing some other locally oriented "op-ed" letters and commentaries in other sections. However, book reviews are still published in the Outlook section on Sundays and in the Style section the rest of the week, as well as online.
In 1980, the newspaper published a dramatic story called "Jimmy's World", describing the life of an eight-year-old heroin addict in Washington, for which reporter Janet Cooke won acclaim and a Pulitzer Prize. Subsequent investigation, however, revealed the story to be a fabrication. The Pulitzer Prize was returned.
Donald E. Graham, Katharine's son, succeeded her as publisher in 1979 and in the early 1990s became both chief executive officer and chairman of the board. He was succeeded in 2000 as publisher and CEO by Boisfeuillet Jones, Jr., with Graham remaining as chairman.
Katharine Graham Weymouth now serves as publisher and chief executive officer.
In 1996, the newspaper established a website.
In 2008, Marcus Brauchli replaced long-time executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., serving publisher Katharine Weymouth.
In 2010, the newspaper cited its local focus as a reason for running its first-ever front-page advertisement: the Capital One ad was being run to draw attention to the rebranding of Chevy Chase Bank, a bank Capital One bought in 2009. According to the Post's vice president of advertising, the page one advertisement is a "...very local, useful-information-for-our-readers type of campaign."
In November 2012, Weymouth announced that Boston Globe editor Martin Baron would take over Brauchli's position on January 2, 2013.
In 2013, the newspaper announced that it has plans to start charging frequent users of its website, with many exceptions (such as for government employees browsing from work, and for students browsing from school). As of March 2013, pricing has not been determined yet.
Jeff Bezos period
Jeff Bezos purchased the newspaper for $250 million in cash, completing the transaction on October 1, 2013, after announcing the planned acquisition on August 5, 2013. The newspaper is currently owned by Nash Holdings LLC, a holding company created for the acquisition and controlled by Bezos. The sale included El Tiempo Latino (a Spanish language newspaper), the Fairfax Times, The Gazette, the Post Express free daily newspaper, Southern Maryland Newspapers, and several newspapers covering and for the U.S. armed forces. Nash Holdings also took ownership of the Post printing plants in Springfield, Virginia; Fairfax County, Virginia; and Laurel, Maryland (the "Comprint plant"). Other assets included in the sale were the publications Apartment Showcase, Capital Business, Fashion Washington, Guide to Retirement Living Sourcebook, New Condominium Guide, and New Homes Guide; the internet sites TheCapitolDeal.com and ServiceAlley.com; and Comprint Military Publications (which included eight weekly newspapers covering local military bases, 10 annual guides to local military bases, and the Web sites DCMilitary.com, DCMilitaryEd.com, DCMilitaryFamLife.com). Some real estate was also included in the deal, such as a one-story office building in St. Mary's County, Maryland; warehouses in Fairfax County, Virginia; two tracts of land in Fairfax County, Virginia; leased office space in Charles County, Maryland, and in Montgomery County, Maryland; and 23 acres of undeveloped land Charles County, Maryland.
Not included in the sale were other Washington Post Company assets, including the Washington Post Company's downtown office building, the Post's Robinson Terminal facilities in Alexandria, Virginia; Post-Newsweek Stations; Cable ONE (a Phoenix, Arizona-based Internet and cable service provider); independent web-based media assets such as Slate Group (Slate magazine and its sister video magazine, Slate V), The Root, and Foreign Policy; social media marketing company Social Code; home healthcare and hospice provider Celtic Healthcare; and the energy parts supplier Forney Corporation. After the completion of the sale, a press release announced the name change of the Washington Post Company to Graham Holdings Company (the change was made effective on November 29, 2013).
In early September 2013, Bezos summarized his approach for the news organizationâ"with a vision that recreates "the 'daily ritual' of reading The Post as a bundle, not merely a series of individual stories"â"although he indicated that the experience was more likely to be created on tablet computers and less likely "on the Web".
In August 2014, The Washington Post launched "Get There", an online personal finance section.
Nash Holdings divested itself of a number of newspapers, and closed two others, in the summer of 2015. The company announced on June 12, 2015, that it would close the Montgomery Gazette and Prince George's Gazette effective June 18, 2015. The company also sold Comprint Military Publications and its Southern Maryland Newspapers group (which consisted of the Maryland Independent, The Enterprise, the Calvert Recorder, and the Enquirer Gazette, and their associated Southern Maryland Newspaper Web site) to Adams Publishing Group. The company also said it would sell the Fairfax County Times to Whip It Media, a locally-owned company founded by the Times' former general manager, Richard Whippen.
In the mid-1970s, conservatives called the newspaper "Pravda on the Potomac" because of its perceived left-wing bias in both reporting and editorials. Since then, the appellation has been used by both liberal and conservative critics of the newspaper. In 1963, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover reportedly told President Lyndon B. Johnson, "I don't have much influence with The Post because I frankly don't read it. I view it like the Daily Worker."
As Katharine Graham noted in her autobiography Personal History, the newspaper long had a policy of not making endorsements for political candidates. However, since at least 2000, the newspaper has occasionally endorsed Republican politicians, such as Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich. In 2006, it repeated its historic endorsements of every Republican incumbent for Congress in Northern Virginia. There have also been times when The Post has specifically chosen not to endorse any candidate, such as in the 1988 presidential election when it refused to endorse then-Governor Michael Dukakis or then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. On October 17, 2008, The Post endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States. On October 25, 2012, the newspaper endorsed the re-election of Barack Obama. On October 21, 2014, the newspaper endorsed 44 Democratic candidates versus 3 Republican candidates for the 2014 elections in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
In "Buying the War" on PBS, Bill Moyers noted 27 editorials supporting George W. Bush's ambitions to invade Iraq. National security correspondent Walter Pincus reported that he had been ordered to cease his reports that were critical of Republican administrations.
In 1992, the PBS investigative news program Frontline suggested that The Post had moved to the right in response to its smaller, more conservative rival The Washington Times, which is owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate owned by the Unification Church, which also owns newspapers in South Korea, Japan, and South America. The program quoted Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the conservative activist organization the Moral Majority, as saying "The Washington Post became very arrogant and they just decided that they would determine what was news and what wasn't news and they wouldn't cover a lot of things that went on. And The Washington Times has forced The Post to cover a lot of things that they wouldn't cover if the Times wasn't in existence." In 2008, Thomas F. Roeser of the Chicago Daily Observer also mentioned competition from The Washington Times as a factor moving The Post to the right.
On March 26, 2007, Chris Matthews said on his television program, "Well, The Washington Post is not the liberal newspaper it was, Congressman, let me tell you. I have been reading it for years and it is a neocon newspaper". It has regularly published an ideological mixture of op-ed columnists, some of them left-leaning (including E.J. Dionne, Greg Sargent, and Eugene Robinson), and many on the right (including George Will, Marc Thiessen, Robert Kagan, Robert Samuelson, Michael Gerson and Charles Krauthammer).
In November 2007, the newspaper was criticized by independent journalist Robert Parry for reporting on anti-Obama chain e-mails without sufficiently emphasizing to its readers the false nature of the anonymous claims. In 2009, Parry criticized the newspaper for its allegedly unfair reporting on liberal politicians, including Vice President Al Gore and President Barack Obama.
Responding to criticism of the newspaper's coverage during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, former Post ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote: "The opinion pages have strong conservative voices; the editorial board includes centrists and conservatives; and there were editorials critical of Obama. Yet opinion was still weighted toward Obama." According to a 2009 publication, in the blogging community, liberal bloggers link to The Washington Post and The New York Times more often than other major newspapers; however, conservative bloggers also link predominantly to liberal newspapers.
In January 2014, it was announced that liberal columnist Ezra Klein was going to leave the newspaper together with Dylan Matthews and another journalist to establish the new news site Vox. Also in January 2014, The Washington Post announced a partnership with the conservative-libertarian blog The Volokh Conspiracy and started hosting the blog on its website.
Notable contributors (past and present)
Executive officers and editors (past and present)
- Social Reader
- List of prizes won by The Washington Post
Notes and references
- Kelly, Tom. The imperial Post: The Meyers, the Grahams, and the paper that rules Washington (Morrow, 1983)
- Lewis, Norman P. "Morning Miracle. Inside the Washington Post: A Great Newspaper Fights for Its Life." Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly (2011) 88#1 pp: 219.
- Merrill, John C. and Harold A. Fisher. The world's great dailies: profiles of fifty newspapers (1980) pp 342-52
- Roberts, Chalmers McGeagh. In the shadow of power: the story of the Washington post (Seven Locks Pr, 1989)
- Official website (Mobile)
- Today's The Washington Post front page at the Newseum website
- "The Washington Post Company history"
- Scott Sherman, May 2002, "Donald Graham's Washington Post" Columbia Journalism Review. September / October 2002.
- Video Interview with then-Baghdad Bureau Chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran
- Jaffe, Harry. "Post Watch: Family Dynasty Continues with Katharine II", Washingtonian, February 26, 2008.