Brauchli did not allow me to examine the postcards and personal items pinned above his desk. He also discouraged me from looking at the books on his shelf, although I did see a copy of T. S. Eliot’s Selected Poems, which someone recently sent to him. He had scribbled some notes on a legal pad, and he began to explain to me why the Post is “in a good position to succeed.” He listed the reasons: a highly affluent, internationally-minded readership; high market penetration for the print edition; a large digital audience. He added: “The Post has a very smart and defensible strategy—both journalistically and economically—which is one that Katharine has really honed in the last year: to be the indispensable guide to Washington, really to be for and about Washington.”
But getting Brauchli to provide direct answers to my questions was a bit like pulling water from a dry well. When he did offer detailed responses, it was, by and large, in the style of a cagey public relations officer. How much money has he been forced to cut from the news budget? (“I don’t think we would want to discuss specifics on how much money we’ve cut from the news budget or the size of the news budget.”) Instead of abandoning New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, why didn’t the Post allow the bureau chiefs to work at home? (“Our feeling was that we can cover the news that matters most to our readers by sending reporters out from Washington, as we have always done for much of our national coverage, without needing people based in those cities.”) How does the newsroom culture of The Washington Post differ from the newsroom culture of The Wall Street Journal? (“Newsrooms have a lot of common DNA,” he said, before launching into a windy disquisition on how the two newspapers have very different readerships, which wasn’t my question.)
Brauchli was somewhat more relaxed and animated in the second hour of our chat, when we discussed his family background, his early years in journalism, his Nieman fellowship at Harvard, and his arrival at Dow Jones. Previously I had asked him for the dozen articles, written from abroad, of which he remains most proud. As we stood up, he gave me a stack of fifty-three articles.
Two weeks later, after I had written to Brauchli to inquire about scheduling additional time to talk about various matters—his clips, his rise at the Journal, his path to the managing editor job, and the trauma of the Murdoch takeover—he called to say that he did not wish to speak about his twenty-three years at Dow Jones. “It’s an era that has been amply described,” he said. He repeated what he’d said, this time with more emphasis, as if addressing a child: “It’s an era that has been amply described.”
Marcus Walker Brauchli was born in 1961 in Boulder, Colorado. His maternal grandfather owned the Huntington Herald Dispatch & Advertiser in Huntington, West Virginia; Marcus never had any contact with the paper. His paternal grandfather, a Swiss immigrant, was a geologist who worked for an oil company in Oklahoma. His father, Christopher, is a lawyer in Boulder who writes political commentaries that appear regularly on The Huffington Post and Counterpunch. His mother, Margot, is active in the Colorado arts scene. He is married to Maggie Farley, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and they have two young daughters.