Most important, it could have preserved and even expanded the Post’s journalistic might, as then ME and now Columbia J-school Dean Steve Coll proposed a decade ago:

One of the defining moments in the story of The Post was the 2003 managers’ meeting at the Inn at Perry Cabin on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Coll proposed tapping the paper’s national and international reputation and putting more resources into making The Post’s Web site into the digital world’s top news site. He believed that big-city dailies were marching like lemmings off a cliff, with the weakest going first and The Post, among the strongest, going last but still going.
“There were measurable and fairly certain risks in staying the course that would lead to the cliff’s edge and the only question was how quickly,” he said in a interview for this story. “The other course was to turn around and take a substantial risk using debt to buy things and reposition the paper and its journalism. It might fail spectacularly, but it would be noble.”
In response, Graham “dumped all over it,” said another editor who attended the session. Graham reiterated his mantra that the paper was and would remain a local business, with a still enviable local market penetration and local ads.

We don’t know anything, really, about what Bezos will do with the paper: One thing you can bet on, though: He’ll reverse that strategy.

Further reading:

Applaud the Grahams, but acknowledge their failures. The praise gets a bit out of hand.

Jeff Bezos’s landmark purchase of the Washington Post. We’ve now officially entered the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse—for good or ill

The Washington Post’s pension math. The Grahams didn’t effectively pay to unload the paper.

The Washington Post Co.’s Self-Destructive Course. Dividends, share buybacks, and an anti-paywall stance help bleed the paper dry.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at