In a recent interview, Weymouth explained why she chose Brauchli: “He had all the qualities I was looking for. He has serious journalistic chops. He was already at a great newspaper. He was running an integrated (print and online) newsroom. He has a great news sense as well as a business sense. He has a good dose of charisma as well.”

Brauchli was hired in July 2008. The previous month, Weymouth had given an interview to Advertising Age, in which she affirmed that she needed a cost-cutter: “To the extent that we need to effect change either in our structure or our head count, I think you need people who can do that effectively, without overly demoralizing the staff or hurting the product that we put out in print or online.” In December 2008, Weymouth sent a memo to the staff that outlined a “principal pillar” of the Post’s strategy in a time of “scarce resources”: “Being about Washington, for Washingtonians, and those affected by it.” Post staffers are still debating Weymouth’s memo, and some are confused by what “being about Washington” actually means. “Why on earth is the Washington Post covering everything from a Beltway perspective?” asks one experienced Post reporter. Others assert that the Post was always for and about Washington, and that Weymouth’s credo is simply a rhetorical device to justify a smaller cost structure. Says Weymouth: “We had to have a strategy. We had to have a sense of what makes us unique, and without that I don’t think you have anything.”

If Brauchli’s financial resources were equal to Bradlee’s and Downie’s, his Post might well resemble theirs. But it was his misfortune to join the Post a week before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Says former Post foreign editor David Hoffman: “The recession blew a big hole in the newspaper’s revenues, which led to pressure to reduce fixed costs, especially personnel.” He faced other challenges as well. Notes Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times: “Moving into the top job as an outsider is a daunting challenge in any institution, especially one with a culture as intense and complicated and political as that of a big-city newsroom.”

Brauchli had a mandate to integrate the paper’s print and digital operations; the latter was located in Arlington, Virginia. The merger was long overdue. Managing editor Raju Narisetti, who joined the Post eighteen months ago after launching Mint, a first-rate business newspaper in India, explains: “We were five years too late in combining both news organizations. And that was a mistake.” He adds: “The Washington Post site was a phenomenal site ten years ago. I think we were somewhat complacent. It lost ground in terms of design, technology, innovation, ease of use.”

As part of the integration process, Narisetti is overseeing the installation of a new computer system that can seamlessly merge print and online content. Brauchli also created a universal news desk, the goal of which is to move content to multiple platforms as rapidly as possible. Indeed, modernizing the Post’s technical infrastructure has been a crucial aspect of Brauchli’s tenure (though Post staffers still complain about second-rate computer equipment). Brauchli takes credit for “integrating two newsrooms in a way that has both eliminated redundancy and improved our agility, ensuring that Washingtonpost.com and its digital cousins on mobile devices are as competitive as any news site out there on breaking news.”

Scott Sherman is a contributing writer at The Nation and a contributing editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.