Last updated: November 14, 2012 1:12 am

New Washington Post editor faces challenge

The Washington Post has named Martin Baron as its new top editor, appointing a respected journalist to lead the US newspaper amid the vast digital transformation upending the industry.

Mr Baron, editor of the Boston Globe, will take over as executive editor in January. He succeeds Marcus Brauchli, the former Wall Street Journal managing editor who has led the Post since 2008.

“My priority is to continue to produce world-class journalism. Martin is clearly the right person to carry on the legacy,” Katharine Weymouth, publisher of the Washington Post, told the Financial Times. “He has a proven track record of journalistic achievement.”

The appointment comes at a pivotal point in the history of one of the most lauded US news organisations, winner of 57 Pulitzer prizes and home to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandal. The Post has a strong legacy in American journalism but faces increased pressure amid economic challenges and growing competition from blogs and other news outlets.

Across the industry, newspaper ad revenues are eroding and circulations dwindling. Washington Post newspaper revenues dropped 4 per cent in the most recent quarter to $137.3m, dragged down by an 11 per cent decline in print advertising revenues.

Total average weekday circulation was 462,228 for the six months to the end of September, down a quarter from the same period in 2008, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The Post, in common with other large metropolitan US newspapers, has retrenched from its ambitions to compete on the national and international journalistic stage.

Mr Brauchli managed the paper through a series of cutbacks and cost-cutting measures, including the closing of bureaux and the discontinuation or merging of several sections. His tenure was plagued by reported tensions with the newspaper’s business side.

The cuts come as the newspaper group bleeds money. It reported an operating loss of $56.3m for the first nine months of the year, compared with a loss of $28m for the same period last year.

“We face the same challenges every newspaper in the United States and almost every newspaper in the world faces,” said Don Graham, chief executive, in an interview. “We haven’t solved the economic problems facing the newspaper industry, but we are trying like hell.”

Faced with declines in the newspaper group, The Washington Post Company has attempted to diversify its business by entering industries including education and healthcare.

In the new year, Mr Brauchli, 51, will take on a new role as a vice-president. He will report to Mr Graham and help evaluate new media opportunities. While editor, Mr Brauchli merged the paper’s print and online operations into one newsroom. The paper won four Pulitzer prizes and other awards during his tenure.

Mr Brauchli became executive editor 2008 after leaving the Wall Street Journal. He had been made editor of the WSJ months before its owner, Dow Jones, was acquired by News Corp. He resigned under pressure a year later, with a package reportedly valued at $6.4m.

Since 2001 Mr Baron has been editor of the Boston Globe, where he also oversaw the paper’s website. During his tenure, the Globe won six Pulitzer prizes. He previously worked as a top editor at the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald.

The Boston Globe is launching a search for a successor that will include both internal and external candidates, according to people familiar with the matter.

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