Fred Ryan, the publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post, told employees Monday that he is stepping down, ending nearly a decade as the paper’s top operations executive. He was appointed by Amazon founder and Post owner Jeff Bezos.
Ryan, a former Reagan aide, said in a note to staff that his next job will be to lead the Center for Public Civility, a new program of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute that has received support from Bezos. support.
In an interview, Mr Ryan said he was proud of his business record at the Post, which included growing the paper’s digital subscribers from 35,000 to 2.5 million.
He also said he was proud of the new partnership on press freedom – Mr Ryan successfully lobbied Iran to release Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and strongly opposed the murder of former Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“I think, if you look back, it’s been one of the most notable shifts in news organizations, it’s mostly print and local news organizations, it’s mostly global and digital news organizations,” Mr Ryan said.
In a letter to staff, Mr Bezos thanked Mr Ryan for his service, saying he had led the paper through a period of “innovation, journalistic excellence and growth”.
News of Mr Ryan’s departure has shocked newsrooms. The masthead and senior editors were notified of Mr. Ryan’s departure on Monday morning, shortly before the official announcement, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Ryan has a mixed resume at the Post. Shortly after Mr. Bezos bought the paper for $250 million in 2013, Mr. Ryan teamed up with the paper’s former executive editor, Marty Barron, to supplement the Post’s newsroom and expand its news operations, resulting in digital Subscriptions skyrocketed.
The Post, consistently a premier news organization, won two Pulitzer Prizes this year for national reporting and feature writing, and two Post reporters for a nonfiction book.
But subscriber growth has been slow in recent years as reader interest in politics wanes from the boom years under former President Donald Trump, and the Post has struggled to maintain momentum. Subscriber numbers now stand at 2.5 million, roughly the same as a year ago and down from the 3 million the Post said it had in 2020.
In interviews with The New York Times, many Postal employees expressed dismay at Ryan’s leadership’s flamboyant business culture, bogged down in endless meetings and dead-end strategic memos. There has been friction over the direction of the publication between Mr Ryan and Sally Buzbee, who joined the Post as executive editor about two years ago.
Late last year, Mr Ryan accused No. 2 senior editor Cameron Barr of leaking unflattering information to the media and asked him to step down, according to three people familiar with the matter.Mr Barr, he Announce He left the Post this month and declined to comment. The Post declined to comment on their interactions.
A person familiar with Mr Ryan’s allegations said there was no evidence to support Mr Ryan’s claims.
Mr. Bezos paid a rare visit to The Washington Post in January following reports that the publication was in trouble. He met with editorial leaders and corporate executives and made it clear that he was there to listen, not ask questions.
In those meetings, many employees expressed concerns to Mr. Bezos about the Post’s lack of a business strategy and the way Mr. Ryan was running the paper, according to a person with knowledge of the meetings. Mr. Bezos has told employees he plans to become more involved and has no plans to sell the newspaper. His presence reassured some staff members who were concerned that he was no longer at the publication.
Shortly after his visit, the Post fired 20 reporters and closed its popular video game section, while saying it would not fill 30 more positions, blaming the “economic climate.”
Since then, the Post has continued to lose top talent, including chief revenue officer Joy Robins and senior culture editor David Malitz, who have both joined The Times. High-profile journalists such as Eli Saslow, Robert Samuels and Stephanie McCrummen also left the Post this year to devote themselves to other publications.
The Post is about to replace some of its departing executives, according to a person familiar with the Post’s hiring efforts.
On Monday, some employees expressed relief after hearing the news of Mr. Ryan’s imminent departure. In an instant messaging chat among Washington Post unionized employees, one staffer suggested a party playlist for the gathering, and another staffer sought out a volunteer to buy champagne.
Katie Mettler, co-chair of the Washington Post Association, said in a chat that the past few years have been “extraordinarily difficult” for the paper’s staff.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about today’s news or what’s coming next,” she wrote, “but I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Mr Ryan’s successor will face the newspaper’s rapid subscriber growth, as well as industry headwinds in the digital advertising market. The upcoming presidential election could bring a tailwind as readers turn to The Washington Post for its authoritative political coverage.
There are signs that Bezos is becoming more involved in running the Post. This spring, he met regularly with postal managers, asking tough questions about finances, online strategy and other issues.
In a note to employees, Bezos said Patty Stonesifer, the former chief executive of Martha’s Table, a supplier of food and clothing to the low-income population, will serve as the Post’s interim chief. executive officer.
“You’ll soon see why I admire her,” he said. “Her skill, judgment and character are outstanding. She also understands the importance of our mission and has a deep respect for the work we do here.”
Ms. Stonesifer will help lead the search for a permanent successor to Mr. Ryan, who will serve as issuer for the next two months.
In a meeting with the newsroom on Monday afternoon, Ms. Stonesiever said she expected to be in the position for six months to a year.
She called herself “the number one fan of The Washington Post,” and assured employees that Mr. Bezos “loved The Post,” according to a recording of the meeting.
“I think the Post is now a big part of his DNA,” she said.
Ms Stonesifer said there were no plans for any additional job cuts.
“I don’t think temporary reform is appropriate,” Ms. Stonesiever said, adding, “I’m here to keep this operational build momentum going.”
Ms. Stonesifer said she will continue to serve as an independent director on Amazon’s board, a position she has held since 1997.