The Post's New Executive Editor Once Headed Wall Street Journal

Marcus Brauchli, 47, will succeed Leonard Downie Jr. in September, overseeing both the newspaper and the Web site.
Marcus Brauchli, 47, will succeed Leonard Downie Jr. in September, overseeing both the newspaper and the Web site. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)
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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Marcus Brauchli was named executive editor of The Washington Post yesterday, 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 editor.

Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth announced that Brauchli will succeed Leonard Downie Jr., who has run the newsroom for 17 years.

When the handoff occurs Sept. 8, Brauchli will become only the third person in the paper's top job since Ben Bradlee was given the position in 1968. He will be the first from outside the corporation since shortly after Weymouth's great-grandfather Eugene Meyer bought the paper at 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 hyper-speed."

In choosing the 47-year-old Brauchli, Weymouth, who is 42, completes a generational shift. Downie, 66, was named editor by her uncle Donald E. Graham, 63, The Washington 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; Weymouth put him at the head of both operations at The Post, supervising the current Web site editors.

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 Brauchli (pronounced BROW-klee) to the newsroom at a meeting today. Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett, who was also a contender for the top job, said he has made no decision about the future. Weymouth has encouraged him to continue in that role.

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

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

"My mantra has been, we are not defined by medium, we are defined by our approach to journalism. If The Washington Post, which has a very strong brand, can reach people who want sound, thoughtful, balanced journalism -- free of cant, free of slant -- they will come to The Post in print, online, on mobile phones, expecting those qualities."

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