The Washington Post is in fascist-guided free fall

Former Murdoch employees have taken over. Now corruption and scandal abound.

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Washington Post journalist Michael Scherer popped up on a livestream Wednesday and introduced Ralph Reed, Chairman of the evangelical Christian Faith and Freedom Coalition. It was a surprising event from what is generally considered a liberal-leaning outlet, made even stranger by the event’s headline promising Reed would explain “Trump’s vision for a second term.” But with the announcement this week that the paper’s leadership has taken a decidedly rightward turn, it made a bit more sense. What followed was a less than 30-minute interview filled with softball questions that could have easily been mistaken for a segment on Newsmax. 

Reed, an evangelical Christian political operative, appeared a good 20 years older than his promotional headshot, and seemed fully at ease chatting with an outlet that most folks on his side of the aisle would consider liberal and hostile to his politics. 

Throughout Reed’s rambling about Hunter Biden and his lack of concern about Donald Trump’s moral character, I was alarmed by how frequently he brought up Israel. When Scherer asked him about the evangelical agenda this election cycle, Reed, after talking about the importance of outlawing abortion, said, "I believe that in today’s evangelical, pro-family movement, I think Israel rivals the [pro-]life issue in their hierarchy of concerns."

Though evangelicals remain some of the most ardent supporters of the United States’ backing of Israel’s continued deadly attacks on Gaza, to hear Reed say this support came above all else was shocking to me. But not to Scherer. He moved onto his next question with no response and no discernible reaction on his face. I sat stunned. 

Changes are afoot at the Washington Post, which has proclaimed since 2017 that “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” On Sunday Sally Buzbee, Executive Editor of the Jeff Bezos-owned outlet, resigned amid conflict with Will Lewis, the new Post publisher and CEO (and an alum of Rupert Murdoch-owned outlets.)

Adding insult to the injury of Buzzbee’s ouster is that her interim replacement is Matty Murray, former Editor-in-Chief of the Wall Street Journal. After the November elections, he’ll be replaced by British editor Robert Winnett, formerly of UK conservative newspaper The Telegraph. And both were brought on board by Lewis, the former CEO of WSJ and fellow Brit and Telegraph alum. In essence, Murdoch’s brand of news now guides the principles of the United States’ third-largest newspaper—and a shocking story from NPR media reporter David Folkenflik on Thursday confirmed it.

In December when Lewis was first named publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, Folkenflik was working on a story about Lewis’s alleged involvement in covering up criminal activity at Murdoch’s papers. And Lewis was not happy. Folkenflik writes:

In several conversations, Lewis repeatedly — and heatedly —offered to give me an exclusive interview about the Post’s future, as long as I dropped the story about the allegations.

At that time, the same spokesperson, who works directly for Lewis from the U.K. and has advised him since his days at the Wall Street Journal — confirmed to me that an explicit offer was on the table: drop the story, get the interview.

This is a mic-drop, record scratch, freeze-frame journalism moment: Offering a bribe to stop an unfavorable story in the US is something reserved for our least trustworthy supermarket tabloids. For the new leader of the Washington Post to make such an offer before he even started the job—and think it was ok!—is simply unthinkable.

And on top of all that, the New York Times reported Wednesday night that when Buzbee told Lewis she planned to publish a piece in mid-May about a Murdoch scandal that involved Lewis allegedly helping cover up criminal activity, he reportedly told her, “the case involving him did not merit coverage.” She published the piece anyway. Days later, Lewis announced a restructuring of the newsroom due to declining profits, offered Buzbee a demotion and pay cut, and she resigned. (Bezos, in comparison, just bought a waterfront estate in Miami for $87 million—his third property in the area.)

“We are losing large amounts of money,” Lewis told the Post staff on Monday. “Your audience has halved in recent years. People are not reading your stuff. I can’t sugarcoat it anymore.” 

Meanwhile, members of the staff have been busy sugarcoating Lewis’s hiring of Murray and Winnett, praising their “decades of experience overseeing ambitious, aggressive journalism” in a propagandist piece published the same day. Rather revealingly, Murray told one of the three writers who put together the handjob of a story that you can’t be too reliant on experts. “You always as a journalist have to be open to new evidence, open to new voices, and open to things you think might contradict what you think is the truth,” he said.

The Post’s latest fall from grace comes in the wake of the Samuel Alito flag scandal, which was broken by the New York Times and which we later found out the Post knew about more than three years ago. A story that caused a viral uproar about has implications on the presidential election wasn’t considered worthy of coverage by Post higher ups. Post opinion columnist Kathleen Parker later wrote that Alito’s wife, who was supposedly the one who flew the controversial flags outside her family’s home, is “funny, feisty, unfiltered and the life of any party.” Who needs journalism when we have friends of the DC elite being paid to write about them?

Some days the reminder that we’re simply pawns in a billionaire chess game is a little too heavy handed. We hum along and just accept that some of the largest media outlets in this country—Fox News and WSJ, plus the ever-popular New York Post—are owned by a fascist-loving billionaire. Somehow the WSJ, aside from its virulent editorial page, is still widely considered to be a reputable news organization. Former colleagues of mine have gone on to work there and the media class seem to clap and cheer and bite our tongues when someone lands a gig at the paper or affiliated weekly magazine. After all, journalism jobs are an endangered species, and getting one at all is a feat to be celebrated.

But we’ve reached a point where accepting institutions as they crumble will only lead to the demise of our own profession. I understand that Washington Post employees have expenses and lives and families and they’re terrified to put their job at risk (especially in America where your healthcare is directly tied to your employment.) But at this point they’ve largely remained silent about the destruction of their newsroom; and by remaining silent, they are furthering the problem. 

At this point, billionaires own pretty much everything. The only power we have left is collective action. If workers at an institution as storied and respected as the Washington Post engaged in some form of protest, they could 1) convince other billionaire media owners to think twice before making similar changes to their newsroom—if only to avoid the headache, which he know billionaires hate, and 2) help staffers at smaller outlets see that they don’t have to accept the ever-increasing right wing pressures on media institutions. Hopefully their union, The Washington Post Guild, has something in the works. 

A person on Bluesky commented Thursday: “WaPo hired *the british cell phone rupert murdoch dude?* like, voluntarily?? lol everything is so shabby.” And shabby is the perfect way of putting it. 

We know we’re long past the golden age of newspapers, but we also must acknowledge we’re in the shit era of online journalism. Private equity destroyed storied brands Jezebel and Deadspin, and Sports Illustrated; Former Republican Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy now has a stake in Buzzfeed, a newsroom that is now a shadow if its former self; the Los Angeles Times former executive editor resigned after the paper’s billionaire owner meddled in reporting that involved his wealthy pal; Essential liberal watchdog Media Matters was forced to layoff staff late last month after ridiculous lawsuits by the maniacal Elon Musk and multiple Republican states attorneys general. And lest we forget that writers publishing on Substack remain in peril thanks to founders who think having Nazis on the platform is fine. Meanwhile the rest of us beg and plead for each and every paid subscription so we can continue to accurately say we’re working journalists. 

But if there’s one thing we can rely on, it’s that things will only get worse for now. Because as I wrote in February: Today is the most depressing day to work in media since yesterday.

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