Amid turmoil within its own ranks over its new CEO, The New York Times found itself looking without and scolding the leadership of another major newspaper, characterizing that paper’s chief as incompetent and claiming that she had "faltered anew."
On November 18, NYT media critic David Carr went after Katharine Weymouth, The Washington Post’s publisher, for a meeting announcing a change in her paper's executive editor in what was, perhaps, a bit of an ungracious manner.
Weymouth’s meeting was called to announce that Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli was leaving and being replaced by Marty Barton, recently the editor of The Boston Globe.
There has been some intrigue between Brauchli and Weymouth, granted, and Weymouth has been at the center of some aborted attempts to grow her paper. But for the media critic of one paper to attack the leadership of another is reminiscent of the old days of newspaper wars, something not seen in modern times.
Mr. Carr thought the change in editors signaled "an inopportune time for The Post to stumble."
Ms. Weymouth’s move is akin to switching drivers just as the car is sputtering to a stop. Print, and more ominously, digital advertising revenue is in decline, circulation is in a dive and the newspaper’s 'for and about Washington' editorial strategy has left employees underwhelmed. Now Ms. Weymouth seems to be upending the loyalty and accountability that has been a hallmark of her family’s ownership of the newspaper.
Apparently relying on unnamed insiders, Carr claims that the Post's employees went back to their desks "wondering whether Ms. Weymouth was capable of leading the organization."
He went on to write, "four years into her tenure at the top, she still seems to be struggling to get a grasp on a huge job at a company whose journalism has at times altered the course of a nation."
Amusingly, Carr seemed to decry that many newspapers are "controlled by families, not conglomerates," even though his own paper is also controlled by a family, the Sulzbergers.
Carr's unnamed Post insiders tell him they are worried that Weymouth, the niece of the chief executive of her paper, is "overseeing the decline of one of journalism’s crown jewels."
In any case, while Carr's report is interesting for what it is – a beat down of Katharine Weymouth's leadership of The Post – what makes it all the more so is the-pot-calling-the-kettle-black aspect of the article.
You see, The New York Times has been having leadership problems, too, and its own recent change of CEOs serves as an amusing parallel to this story. Only days ago, former British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Director Mark Thompson took his place as The Times' new CEO but, just as he's assumed his new job here in the states, journalists in America are finding out he left London under a cloud of suspicions of corruption.
When he was hired by The Times, new CEO Mark Thompson swore to the paper that he knew nothing about a deepening sex scandal involving one of the BBC's most famous TV presenters. But new evidence seems to be pointing to the fact that he knew about the scandal long before he claims he did.
Now doubts are growing about the veracity of Thompson's assurances to The Times that he had no knowledge about the sex scandal and the coverups the BBC committed for decades to hide the truth from the British public.
So, it is a bit hard to take Carr's story seriously, when his own paper is seemingly in the same rudderless boat. As Ed Morrissey says, "perhaps Carr should look to the beam in the Gray Lady’s eye first before tending to the speck in the Post’s."