Today The Washington Post announced that Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli would be leaving his post at year’s end, with Marty Baron, the top editor of the Boston Globe, poised to take over. Lots of people saw this coming, thanks to high-rotation rumors that have been captivating Washington-media insiders for an unsubstantiated, but long, period of time.
Those rumors formed the squishy foundations of a September story by the Washingtonian’s Harry Jaffe. He wrote:
Reports of editor Marcus Brauchli’s imminent departure have been circulating within the Washington Post since the first of the year. He was supposed to have been gone by spring, but he lasted through that season, then the summer. Now once again, despite denials by Brauchli and senior management, rumors are swirling that his days are numbered.
Jeff Bercovici of Forbes found enough oomph behind to chatter to write this in mid-October:
Two sources with knowledge of the situation say [Post Publisher Katharine] Weymouth, who has served as publisher since February 2008, has approached multiple newspaper editors about the job, at least one of them currently employed at the Times. She is also said to be interested in Marty Baron, longtime editor of the Boston Globe. The Globe is also owned by The New York Times Co.
Lesson: When it comes to the Washington Post, believe all rumors. They have an uncanny knack of becoming true.
I covered this place for nearly a decade for the Washington City Paper and TBD, a now-defunct local site. Over that time, I’d dial up sources again and again. They’d always be willing to trade in the latest rumor that was gaining currency in the newsroom. Like this:
Psst, I hear management is cooking up a buyout for the older folks in the newsroom, a cost-cutting thing.
Not long thereafter, older Posties were walking around with hulking packets of information on how rich they’d become if only they’d get out.
Or this: Psst , I hear Len isn’t going to be around much longer.
Not long thereafter, Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. left his position.
The pssts announced smaller Post-related rumors as well, such as the expected closing of some section of the paper or the hiring of a new editor or the announcement of yet another buyout.
And here’s the thing: They virtually never failed to pan out. That’s not to say they came true right away — the Post is a deliberative policy-making institution, and rumors about its next move circulate far faster than the actions that they foretell.
These rumors, too, often related to humdrum goings-on at the Post, routine stories that not many folks outside of Washington print media cared about. So it’d be wrong to call them too good to check. A better term might be ”no need to check.”
Today Weymouth celebrated The Post as the country’s “best news organization.” If its reporting on the world outside of its doors is as trustworthy as the rumors that it produces internally, she may well be right.