Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't Bum Out Wash Post Mag With Sad Stories

The Washington PostImage via Wikipedia
Katherine Weymouth, publisher of The Washington Post and granddaughter of  Post icon Katherine Graham, denies that she deliberately exerted editorial influence to kill a Post Magazine story about the triumphs and tribulations of a quadruple amputee because she found it "depressing."

Freelance writer Matt Mendelsohn devoted a year to the story that chronicled the struggles of  26-year-old Richmond, Virginia, resident Lindsay Ess, who survived a brush with death after quadruple amputation of her arms and legs and was about to receive prosthetics. Weymouth reportedly told Mendelsohn at a brunch that the paper's advertisers favored "happier stories, not 'depressing' ones."  Both Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and then acting magazine editor Sydney Trent claim Weymouth did not interfere with any newsroom decision about the story, though Trent conceded the "handwriting was on the wall" and that stories similar to the Ess piece were spiked because they apparently rated too high on the grim index.

Last July, the Post suffered a self-inflicted black eye after Weymouth planned a series of private dinners at her home that would draw lobbyists, business leaders, pols and other shakers and movers willing to ante up $25,000 for eats and a chance to rub shoulders with each other and Post editors and reporters. The idea was canned after Politico exposed the dinners that were closed to the press and public.

So Weymouth may eschew stories about a gutsy individual's battle to overcome lost appendages, but is more than willing to go out on a limb, so to speak, to compromise her paper's journalistic principles.
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