New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg took on a weird assignment: puffing up Katherine Weymouth, publisher of The Washington Post. A cynic might joke that Stolberg could apply for a job at the Post in a less obvious way. Or the Times is self-conciously trying to say “Newspapers are still glamorous properties!” and repeat it for emphasis.
Stolberg wrote that 47-year-old Katherine convened a “power dinner” at her house and passed muster with her mommy, Lally Weymouth, as worthy of Lally’s mommy, Watergate-era Post publisher Katharine Graham. It all went overboard into a goo puddle when this family are like “royalty” and national newspapers are “crown jewels” – even if the Times just unloaded the Boston Globe like it was cubic zirconia:
It was the kind of scene, rife with unspoken family drama, that captivates longtime Washingtonians, who have scrutinized and mythologized the Grahams for decades, much as the British do their royalty. Now, in an exceedingly difficult climate for newspapers, Ms. Weymouth is charged with saving the crown jewels.
Newspaper people desperately want to anoint themselves royals, with all the power and prestige that suggests. Stolberg fondly remembers how “The Post helped bring down a president; and for nearly four decades, Mrs. Graham ruled social Washington, feting presidents and prime ministers in her elegant Georgetown manse, dining at the White House with kings and queens.”
Then Stolberg sold her Ms. Weymouth as a middle-aged hottie of sorts: She’s fun-loving and a fitness buff and came to a Times photo shoot looking svelte:
(“She can crunch till the cows come home,” said Pari Bradlee, a yoga instructor and daughter-in-law to Ben) and, for a while, one of the most sought-after dates in town...
Ms. Weymouth’s penchant for showing off her athletic figure — she arrived for a photo shoot in a crisp white sleeveless sheath and four-inch lime green Jimmy Choos — provokes titters in the newsroom. Then again, she works hard for it; Ms. Elkin said the two spend Sunday mornings doing free weights and “boy push-ups” with a personal trainer.
“We smack-talk each other the entire time,” Ms. Elkin said, “just like we did when we were 20 years old.”
Not only that, in her childhood, she “danced the ‘Nutcracker’ while studying, quite seriously, with the School of American Ballet.”
Elkin later returned for more puffery. “At Oxford, she drank beer, rowed crew and went through a black leather phase — ‘She scared me, she was so cool,’ Ms. Elkin said.”
When she got married, it was high society: “The wedding at her mother’s Southampton home, with 470 A-list guests, was a typical Lally extravaganza. Not only did Oscar de la Renta design the dress, a friend said, he was there to zip it up.”
Stolberg makes it clear her divorce was rough, then follows up: “Friends say Ms. Weymouth has become the ultimate hands-on mother (albeit one with ‘one-and-a-half’ nannies, as she describes it), waking up early to make the children a hot breakfast and driving them to school every morning.”
There was no bragging about the Post’s circulation: “Ad revenue is declining and average daily circulation was 474,767 in March, down from 673,180 when Ms. Weymouth took over, the Alliance for Audited Media said.”
Very late in the story came Katherine Weymouth’s one memorable media-ethics scandal, where she tried to offer $250,000-a-plate access for lobbyists to top Washington figures. We're told the Post stumbled by hiring editor Marcus Brauchli from The Wall Street Journal, but apparently are much better with Martin Baron, formerly of...The New York Times. Stolberg ended:
“I don’t feel like my job is to be beloved,” said Ms. Weymouth, the woman who might be known as the working-mother publisher, with her children at play and her dogs at her feet. “I certainly hope to be a great publisher, and if people want to love me, too, that’s even better.”
Stolberg certainly did her best to make Katherine Weymouth beloved. Now she has a great clip to hand the Post if the Times job ever goes sour. Smooch, smooch.