Correction: An earlier version of this incorrectly stated that The Post’s Linotype machines operated in the basement of its headquarters. The machines were located on the fourth floor. This version has been corrected.
WE OFTEN resembled a big, sprawling family at The Post, a clan of wise elders, rambunctious youngsters and generations in between, filling our tan-brick headquarters at 1150 15th St. NW with bustle and emotion, drama and purpose. We leave our home this weekend, the walls still echoing our delight and anguish during 43 years when we sometimes felt at the very epicenter of the world. As with any family moving out of the old house, the closets are full of memories.
The hulking headquarters, which our former publisher Katharine Graham built but never much admired, opened in 1972 and was for most of its life both factory and office. (From 1950 to 1972, The Post resided in a building at 1515 L St., which was joined to the later structure.) Corporate executives sat on the upper floors, the presses below, and, in between, the business departments and the “newsroom,” all those who forged the words and images. For all of us who contributed, there was something almost magical upon leaving the building late in the evening to see, through the towering lobby windows, the presses shaking and rumbling.
This building witnessed the peak of the analog era and the dawn of the digital age. For most of the years, a cascade of deadlines for news and advertising unfolded only once every 24 hours. A news scoop meant beating the competition by just that much, or a little more. As the first edition came off the presses, runners lined up on 15th Street to buy it for other news bureaus and the White House. Newspaper pages were designed with pencils and rulers. Phone messages were delivered on pink slips, and phones had cords. People smoked cigarettes (and even cigars) in the newsroom. A great symbol of the lead-type era, a Linotype machine, stood guard at our front door, after being worked for years on the fourth floor. All of this eventually changed as technology and society evolved. One memorable day, the executive editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee, came rushing excitedly out of his office holding up a shiny round object: the first compact disc any of us had ever seen. He said it could store a year of our newspapers, and we were in awe. Our transformation to the digital era was just beginning, and today is unceasing. Now, deadlines are every minute.
Before we turn out the lights on the old headquarters and make the move a few blocks away, it must be said that what mattered most was not the building, but the people. If you had observed our family arguments over the years, you would have seen an ambitious and self-questioning bunch, aware of our deficiencies but driven by the pursuit of truth in all its complexity and difficulty. At 1150 15th St. NW, journalists tried to tell compelling stories and shine a light on the workings of our democracy. It could not have happened but for the commitment of the Grahams — in the later years, especially, the leadership of Donald Graham, our chief executive until 2013. But the daily miracle was at heart always a collaborative effort, depending on printers and photographers, ad salesmen and truck drivers, copy aides and copy editors. Today, videographers, Web designers and many others have joined the team, but the mission hasn’t changed, and won’t. While our headquarters, with all its memories, will fall to the wrecking ball, we intend to keep chasing the same complex and confounding truths, with a new owner and a new office — and for a new age.
Read more on this topic: