The Washington Post: A much-diminished force – but it is still a local institution

Its domestic political coverage and foreign affairs expertise are still excellent

Washington

To grasp what The Washington Post and the family that owned it used to represent, consider the passing of Katharine Graham.

On 17 July 2001, the newspaper’s most famous publisher had died after a fall while attending a  high-level business confab in Idaho. Six days later she received a state funeral in all but name.

That sultry Monday afternoon, an overflow crowd of 3,000 packed Washington’s National Cathedral. Presidents and Vice-Presidents attended, as did Senators and Congressmen by the dozen, business moguls, the media super-elite and notables from across the country.

It was a send-off befitting a person to whom the title “most powerful woman in America” had once surely belonged.

Ms Graham presided over The Washington Post’s most glorious era, when it published the Pentagon Papers and then helped bring about the downfall of President Richard Nixon. The Watergate reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, as well as the swashbuckling, salty editor Ben Bradlee, became household names, their exploits turning newspapering into the most glamorous trade on earth for a while.

Atop the pyramid sat Ms Graham. The city’s most precious currency was an invitation to dinner at her mansion on the corner of R and 29th streets in Georgetown.

In retrospect, her funeral marked a watershed. The Georgetown dinner party was by then a dying institution, but the new media that would eat into The Washington Post’s sales and profits were not yet a dominant force. In 2001, the newspaper still sold over 750,000 copies. Today the figure is barely 470,000.

Until then, the Grahams had been Washington’s own unofficial royal family. Thereafter, they were like every other family that owned an American newspaper, trying to keep a traditional print business going in the age of the internet.

In the years since, The Washington Post has had its share of triumphs, notably in exposing the post-9/11 excesses of the CIA and the runaway growth of America’s secret state.

Its domestic political coverage and foreign affairs expertise are still excellent.

But financial pressures, perforce, have shrunk its horizons. It retains a smaller, but still decent, network of foreign correspondents, but has  long since closed all its bureaus in other US cities – even New York and Los Angeles.

More than its arch rival The New York Times, The Washington Post  has always been a curious mix of  the global and the local, the paper with a virtual monopoly in the capital of the world’s lone superpower, but which also devotes much space to high-school football in next-door Maryland. These days the paper is thinner.

As often as not, the parochial gets the upper hand. Nor is the paper quite the liberal beacon that Watergate made it for the world. It’s not conservative, but domestically there is little of the visceral dislike of Republicans and all their works so evident in The New York Times. If anything, the op-ed pages lean neo-con on foreign policy.

The Washington Post is a local institution and will remain one under Jeff Bezos. No longer though is it a national institution like The New York Times, now the last of America’s great newspapers left in family hands. But, one may ask, for how much longer?p

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on