Washington Post Names Marcus Brauchli Executive Editor

Marcus W. Brauchli, a former top editor of The Wall Street Journal, will succeed Leonard Downie Jr. as executive editor of The Washington Post.
Marcus W. Brauchli, a former top editor of The Wall Street Journal, will succeed Leonard Downie Jr. as executive editor of The Washington Post. (Katherine Frey - The Washington Post)
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 7, 2008; 8:05 PM

Marcus Brauchli has been named executive editor of The Washington Post, returning him to the top ranks of American journalism less than three months after Rupert Murdoch forced him out as the Wall Street Journal's top editor.

Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth announced this afternoon that Brauchli will succeed Leonard Downie Jr., who has run the newsroom for 17 years. He will also assume control of the paper's Web site.

When the handoff occurs Sept. 8, Brauchli will become only the third person in the paper's top post since Ben Bradlee was given the job in 1968 and the first from outside the corporation since shortly after Weymouth's great-grandfather, Eugene Meyer, bought the paper in a bankruptcy sale in 1933.

"It's both a privilege and possibly the most intimidating thing I've ever done to think about coming into an institution with such deep and proud traditions as The Post," Brauchli said. "It's going to be a challenge, obviously, to adjust to a new culture. . . . I'm anticipating having to go through a steep learning curve at hyperspeed."

In choosing the 47-year-old Brauchli, Weymouth, who is 42, completes a generational shift. Downie, 66, had been named by her uncle, Donald Graham, 63, The Post Co.'s chief executive, when he was publisher.

Weymouth called Brauchli "a strong and visionary leader" who is "smart and able" and "places the same emphasis on quality and accountability journalism as we do. . . . I have found him to be a straight shooter and a good listener."

In reaching beyond the company for a new leader, Weymouth, who became publisher in February, signaled that she wanted to shake up the existing order and speed an eventual merger with the paper's separately managed Web site. Brauchli combined the print and online newsrooms during his year-long tenure in charge of the Journal, and Weymouth put him in charge of both operations at The Post.

Despite The Post's culture of "promoting from within," Weymouth said, "I thought that we could benefit from someone who would come in and look at what we do with fresh eyes."

In her announcement, she said she would introduce him to the newsroom at a meeting tomorrow.

Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett, who was also a contender for the top job, has made no decision about the future but Weymouth has encouraged him to continue in that role.

Brauchli's challenge is particularly acute because he has never lived in Washington, a capital with a unique culture and customs, and has not dealt with local news during his nearly quarter-century at the Journal, a national publication which is based in New York but has no metro section.

Brauchli said The Post must straddle its dual role as "the best source of information" for local news while also providing a "definitive" account of national politics and policy. In an age when the Internet is dramatically extending the reach of newspapers while also undercutting their traditional business model, he said, "journalists are going to have to be comfortable in multiple forms of media.

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