The atmosphere of uncertainty at the Washington Post has extended to its highest levels: executive editor Sally Buzbee has begun musing aloud to staff about whether they thought she should resign, three sources said.
Four Washington Post staffers told Semafor that during her meeting with the national politics staff Buzbee was asked by one reporter whether her priorities for the newsroom were in conflict with publisher Fred Ryan's plans.
Buzbee suggested that if staff believed the best outcome “would be for me to leave,” they should tell her, two people who attended the meeting said. “It won’t hurt my feelings,” she said.
Buzbee’s musings come as The Post continues to crash down from its Trump-era high.
After the Post’s coverage of the Trump administration boosted readership, the paper lost both money and digital subscribers this year.
The Post has laid off staff in recent weeks and Semafor first reported that the Post would be ending its weekend magazine this month.
In a lengthy note Wednesday evening, Ryan clarified his plans for a “single-digit percentage” staff reduction next year, saying the paper would be laying off staff whose jobs “no longer meet the needs of today’s readers and consumers,” and that the paper would be hiring other staff for different roles.
While staff I spoke with said Buzbee’s comments were bizarre, there was little agreement about whether she was serious about resigning. Some thought may have been suggesting she was willing to act as a bulwark for staff against the cuts. Buzbee declined through a spokesperson to clarify her remarks.
But the fact that Buzbee would even float the prospect of stepping down in a meeting with rank-and-file staff lends credence to a newsroom perception of friction between her and Ryan at a moment when members of the publication’s union have tended to sympathize with Buzbee and focus the union's ire on the publisher.
While Buzbee faced blame for how she handled the tumult at the paper earlier this year, much of the staff anger over the past several months has been directed instead at Ryan, who recruited Buzbee for the executive editor job.
The meeting, and Buzbee’s comment, also all comes at a particularly uncomfortable time: Tonight is the Eugene Meyer and Ben Bradlee Awards, a major ceremony recognizing the paper's journalists.
- The turmoil at the paper has strengthened the staff union. A number of prominent reporters including political investigations reporter Josh Dawsey, political correspondent Ashley Parker, national security and intelligence reporter Shane Harris, and White House reporter Tyler Pager all joined the NewsGuild on Wednesday after the meeting.
- Several top editors have departed the Post in recent months, including managing editors Steve Ginsberg and Kat Downs Mulder.
- Advertising revenue at the Post was 15% lower in the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2021, a serious decline that alarmed the paper's executives