Fred Ryan, publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post, told employees Monday he is stepping down, ending his nearly decade-long tenure as the newspaper’s top business executive. He was hired by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and owner of The Post.
In a note to staff, Ryan, a former Reagan aide, said his next job would be leading the Center on Public Civility, a new project of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute that is backed by Bezos.
In an interview, Mr Ryan said he was proud of his business record at The Post, which included growing the newspaper’s digital subscribers from 35,000 to 2.5 million.
He also said he was proud of a new partnership on press freedom – Mr Ryan successfully lobbied Iran for the release of Washington Post journalist Jason Razian and spoke out against the murder of former Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi .
“I think if you look back at The Ark, it is one of the most notable changes in a news organization that was primarily print and local, that became primarily global and digital,” Mr. Ryan said. .
Mr Bezos thanked Mr Ryan for his service in a note to staff, saying he led the newspaper through a period of “innovation, journalistic excellence and growth”.
News of Mr. Ryan’s passing sent shockwaves across the newsroom. Masthead and senior editors were informed of Ryan’s departure on Monday morning, shortly before the official announcement, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
Mr. Ryan has had an uneven track record at The Post. Tapped by Mr. Bezos to lead the paper shortly after he acquired the paper for $250 million in 2013, Mr. Ryan teamed up with the paper’s former executive editor Marty Barone to refurbish The Post’s newsroom and Its journalism led to expansion. Digital Subscriptions.
The Post remains a premier journalism institution, and this year won two Pulitzer Prizes for national reporting and feature writing, and two Post journalists have won a Pulitzer for a nonfiction book.
But subscriber growth has been sluggish in recent years, as former President Donald J. Increased reader interest in politics during Trump’s attention-grabbing administration had waned from its heyday, and the Post has struggled to keep pace. The current number of subscribers — 2.5 million — is roughly flat compared to the same period last year, and down from the three million the post said it had in 2020.
In interview with the new york timesMany Post employees have expressed frustration with what they describe as a sluggish business culture under Ryan’s leadership, stuck in endless meetings and dead-end strategy memos. Mr Ryan and executive editor Sally Buzby have been at loggerheads got included in Posted almost two years ago, in the direction of publication.
Late last year, Mr. Ryan accused the second-most senior editor, Cameron Barr, of leaking unflattering information to the press and sought his removal, according to three people familiar with the matter. mr barr, who announced His departure from The Post this month declined to comment. The Post declined to comment on their conversation.
A person familiar with Mr Ryan’s allegation said there was no evidence to support Mr Ryan’s claims.
Mr. Bezos made a rare visit to The Post in January, following reports about publication struggles. He met with editorial leaders and business executives and made it clear that he was there to listen rather than ask questions.
In those meetings, several employees raised concerns with Mr. Bezos about the lack of a business strategy for the Post, and how Mr. Ryan managed the newspaper, according to a person with knowledge of those meetings. Mr. Bezos told employees that he plans to get more involved and has no plans to sell the newspaper. His presence reassured some staff members who had been concerned that he was no longer committed to the publication.
Soon after his visit, The Post laid off 20 journalists and closed its popular video-gaming section, while saying it would not fill a further 30 positions, blaming the “economic climate”.
The Post has continued to lose top talent since then, including its chief revenue officer, Joy Robbins, and its senior culture editor, David Malitz, who both joined the Times. High-profile journalists such as Eli Saslow, Robert Samuels and Stephanie McCrumman have also left The Post for other publications this year.
It is close to replacing some of the executives who are leaving, according to a person familiar with its recruiting efforts.
Some employees expressed relief on Monday after hearing news of Mr Ryan’s impending departure. In an instant messaging chat for employees at the Washington Post union, one staff member suggested a party playlist for the occasion, and another solicited a volunteer to buy champagne.
Katie Mettler, co-president of the Washington Post guild, said in the chat that the past few years had been “extraordinarily trying” for employees at the newspaper.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about today’s news or what comes next,” she wrote, “but I, for one, am cautiously optimistic.”
Mr Ryan’s successor will face a boom in newspaper subscriber growth as well as sector-wide headwinds in the digital advertising market. The upcoming presidential election may provide a tailwind, as readers turn to the Post for its official political coverage.
There are indications that Mr. Bezos has been more involved in the running of The Post. This spring, he held regular meetings with postal managers, asking pointed questions about finances, online strategy and other issues.
Patty Stonecipher, the former chief executive of Martha’s Table, which provides food and clothing for low-income people, will be interim chief executive of The Post, Mr. Bezos said in the note to employees.
“You will soon see for yourself why I admire him,” he said. “Her skill, judgment and character all stand out. She also understands the importance of our mission and has a deep respect for the work we do here.
Ms. Stonecipher will help lead the search for a permanent successor for Mr. Ryan, who will remain publisher for the next two months.
In a meeting with the newsroom on Monday afternoon, Stonecipher said she expected to be in the role for six months to a year.
1 fan of the Washington Post, and he assured employees that Mr Bezos “loves The Washington Post” and planned to own the paper for generations, according to an audio recording of the meeting. Ms. Stonecipher said there are no plans for any additional layoffs.
“I don’t think it’s right for an interim overhaul,” Ms. Stonecipher said, adding, “I’m here to keep this operation-building momentum going.”
Ms Stonecipher said she would remain on Amazon’s board as an independent director, a position she has held since 1997.