- UPDATE (May 24, 2010): Poynter has published the complete transcript of Weymouth’s interview.
“Can we meet Katharine Weymouth?” I asked.
Sara laughed and said that, since it would be pretty crowded, some of us could sit in the back of the room. So we did.
Katharine Weymouth is the CEO of Washington Post Media and publisher of The Washington Post. She’s also the granddaughter of the venerable Katharine Graham, who steered The Washington Post through the Watergate investigations that elevated the paper’s reputation.
Tonight, Weymouth was the guest speaker at a town hall-like gathering of journalists — most of whom were female — to kick off a 1.5-day colloquium inspired by the book The Edge of Change: Women in the 21st Century Press. After answering some introductory questions from Poynter president Karen Dunlap, Weymouth fielded questions from the women journalists in attendance.
First things first: Weymouth is a lot younger than any of us students had thought. This should have come as no surprise, though, as Vogue published photos and a profile of Weymouth back in July 2009 — a report I’d skimmed.
Now, a summary of some of the things Weymouth said. Most of these are just single quotes of hers that I thought epitomized her whole train of thought about a subject. Please note that these may not be her words verbatim, but they’re pretty damn close.
- “It’s still the stars among us that make it.” — after noting that women in the industry often have to be doubly good to receive any raises or promotions
- Newspapers have a bigger audience than ever before, thanks to the Web. The challenge is how to pay for it.
- “You can’t get lazy; you can’t get complacent.” — after saying that competition makes The Washington Post better
- “The worst thing you can do after making a mistake is to freeze.” — while explaining how she had to move on after last summer’s salons controversy
- Young journalists should go to news outlets where they would grow to become the journalists they want to be, as well as where there’s enough resources to fund those opportunities.
- “I love to see the presses run… I am a print person by training and habit.” — when asked what one thing she enjoys about newspapers
- “There is no ‘print’ and ‘on-line.’ It’s journalism.” — regarding the convergence of the Post’s print and on-line newsrooms
- “We write the story all day long. ‘Print is dead, print is dead, print is dead.’” — about how journalists, not just bloggers and pundits, are constantly writing about their own demise
- “Sometimes they come to us for coverage of Afghanistan; sometimes they come to us for the crossword. And that’s okay!” — regarding why readers should be compelled to read the paper
- “We have to look at the front page as a storefront.”
- “No.” — when asked if newspapers should consider accepting government subsidies
- “A lot of people are like, ‘Why can’t we be a non-profit?’ I’m like, ‘We are!’” — regarding the profitability of the newspaper business
I think the town hall was supposed to focus on “women in the industry” topics, but I don’t think it’s possible to put more than two journalists in a room and not end up with a “where the hell is this industry going” discussion. That’s what happened tonight, but I doubt anyone minded. It was interesting to hear Weymouth’s opinion on current concerns and trends.
As for the rest of the day? Well, we talked about narratives with Pulitzer winner Thomas French, and in another session, we watched perhaps the worst ad ever created:
Make sure you watch it in full.