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Washington Post's Katharine Weymouth speaks on new media

POSTED AT 11:51 PM ON Feb. 28, 2012  (UPDATED AT 11:52 PM ON Feb. 28, 2012)

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Last night, the IU School of Journalism experienced a flood of excited people who eagerly awaited the arrival of Katharine Weymouth, publisher of the Washington Post.

Every seat was full, and chatter echoed throughout the room. At the front sat three chairs.

A cameraman waited patiently in the corner until all eyes focused on the door. Pressing his face to the viewfinder, he prepared to shoot the interview.   

Weymouth walked into the room and took her seat with Yvette Alex-Assensoh, dean of the Office for Women’s Affairs and professor of political science, and Perry Metz, executive director of Radio and Television Services and adjunct faculty member in the School of Journalism.   

Weymouth became CEO of Washington Post Media and publisher of the Washington Post in 2008. Before then, she had been vice president of advertising for the Post since 2005.

She is the great-granddaughter of Eugene Meyer, who bought the Post in 1933, and granddaughter and namesake of Katharine Graham. Graham led the company for 30 years and oversaw the Post reporters’ uncovering of the Watergate scandal.   

Given the issues surrounding modernity and managing the influx of technology, Assensoh and Metz began by asking Weymouth how she was dealing with this new age of change in the media industry.   

“I think the traditional part of the Post that we want to keep and don’t want to change is the good quality journalism,” Weymouth said.

“The Internet is an amazing tool, as well as the new technology used to harness it. Now is an incredibly exciting time to be a journalist. Whether a journalist is in Syria, Libya, or Washington, D.C., they can capture video on iPhones, tweet, blog,
anything. Now they have a lot of tools to help them.”   

Continuing the discussion of technology, Metz asked how hard it was to persuade people to make the online department of the Post and the actual newspaper one unit.   

“I don’t think it was hard at all to persuade people to make them one unit,” Weymouth said. “It made sense to me that we had to be one newsroom. I mean, one unit was across the river and the other was in downtown D.C., so it just made things complicated, communication-wise. If it makes sense for us, then we’ll do it.”  
 
From crises in media business at home and abroad to juggling being a single mom with a job, Weymouth discussed various aspects of the Post and her position as publisher.   

“I have an extremely committed team,” Weymouth said. “I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. I know that if I died or something drastic happened, the paper would still run as strong as if I were totally fine. We believe in getting the story out there for our consumers, and we do it with a passion that makes working at the Post a joy for me.”

“I was truly very excited to see Weymouth,” audience member Ann Steigerwald said. “I read her grandmother’s book, which was excellent, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to come see her. I know from her novel that Katharine Graham was a strong, powerful woman. I assumed that her granddaughter would be very similar to her, and I was not wrong.”   

At the conclusion of the talk, Weymouth said a good sense of humor and good friends are critical in relieving the stress of her job.

“My job is not without its stresses,” Weymouth said. “But I have learned something throughout my career that I stress at the Post and at home to my three children.

When you fall and make mistakes, which you inevitably will, you have to be able to get back up and go on.”

 

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