WASHINGTON – The Washington Post has named veteran journalist Sally Buzbee of the Associated Press as its executive editor, marking the first time a woman has been appointed to lead the 144-year-old news organization.

Buzbee, currently AP’s executive editor and senior vice president, will take over leadership of The Post’s nearly 1,000-person newsroom next month, said publisher Fred Ryan, who made the announcement to the newspaper’s staff on Tuesday.

She succeeds Martin Baron, who retired at the end of February after serving as editor since 2013. Her appointment capped a search that began ten weeks ago, following Baron’s retirement.

Buzbee, 55, has headed AP’s news operations since 2017, and has been with the organization since she began her career as a journalist in 1988. The venerable wire service, headquartered in New York, is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with some 2,800 journalists. Like The Post, it produces hundreds of news articles, feature stories and photos every day that are distributed to news outlets around the world. It also produces audio and video reports that are carried on TV and radio stations.

Buzbee’s experience overseeing international newsgathering made her an attractive candidate as The Post expands its operations abroad, said Ryan. The newspaper has announced plans to open news hubs in London and Seoul this year that will enable its newsroom to report stories around-the-clock. It will also open new bureaus in Sydney and Bogota, expanding its total to 26 outside the U.S.

Buzbee also has Washington ties. From 2010 to 2016, she was AP’s Washington bureau chief, and was in charge of its coverage of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, as well as its coverage of Congress, the White House and federal agencies. During an earlier stint in Washington in the 1990s, she was the AP’s assistant bureau chief for news, running spot news coverage and overseeing the foreign affairs and national security beats.

“The Post has such a rich journalistic legacy, and such a terrific staff,” she said in an interview Tuesday morning from her home in New York City. “It’s exciting to join this organization at a time of growth and innovation.”

In a memo to employees on Tuesday, Ryan wrote that “we looked for someone steeped in the courageous journalism that is The Post’s hallmark, and who can extend our reach to news audiences in the U.S. and abroad. We sought a bold leader who can manage our dynamic newsroom and bureaus across the globe . . .. We looked for some who shares our values of diversity and inclusion, and who is committed to prioritizing them in our news coverage as well as our hiring and promotion.”

Ryan said The Post sought a “world-class journalist,” with a particular strength in investigative and political reporting, as well as someone with “the credibility and gravitas” to be an effective spokesperson for the profession. He called Buzbee “an inspiring leader and accomplished journalist in the finest traditions” of The Post.

Ryan said in an interview Tuesday that Buzbee was the “runaway unanimous choice” for the job following interviews with him and Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder who owns The Post. “We were in total agreement,” he said.

Buzbee was among a small group of candidates who were interviewed by Bezos in Washington last week. Ryan declined to identify others who were considered for the job, citing confidentiality. This is the first executive editor hiring since Bezos purchased the company in 2013.

Buzbee’s appointment was a surprise to those who closely followed the search for The Post’s next editor – a testament to the secrecy in which Ryan conducted his search. Her name rarely came up amid intense internal discussion over who would follow Baron.

In selecting Buzbee, Ryan passed over three journalists who had been considered leading candidates and sentimental favorites among many Post journalists.

The first was Kevin Merida, who spent 22 years at The Post, rising to managing editor of news and features, before leaving to join ESPN in 2015. Merida, however, does not appear to have had serious talks with The Post’s leadership in the months since Baron announced he would step down. Merida was named editor of the Los Angeles Times last week.

The others were internal candidates: Cameron Barr, who replaced Merida as managing editor in 2015 and has been serving as interim executive editor since Baron retired; and Steven Ginsberg, National editor who guided much of the newsroom’s coverage of the Trump White House.

The Post was one of several news organizations that has been seeking to replace its top editor. Among others, ABC News, CBS News, the L.A. Times, Reuters, Wired, Vox and HuffPost are, or were, searching for new leadership in recent months.

After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1988, Buzbee started her career as an AP reporter in Kansas. She was also a reporter in Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington. She made the jump to editing in 1996 as assistant bureau chief in Washington.

Beginning in 2004, she was AP’s Middle East regional editor in Cairo, supervising coverage of the Iraq War. She also holds an MBA degree from Georgetown University.

Though several women have served as managing editors at The Post, the second-ranking position, none have been appointed to the top spot since the newspaper was founded in 1877. Buzbee joins a line that includes Baron, Leonard Downie Jr. (1991-2008), and the late, legendary Ben Bradlee (1968-91).

She noted the landmark nature of her hiring, saying it was “an honor” to be the first woman in the job. “I’ve always been conscious in my career and my life how others have paved the way for me,” she said. “I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’m also conscious of the fact that we can never rest on the issue of diversity. My feeling is, no matter how much progress we’ve made, it’s never enough.”

At The Post, she will assume leadership in a newsroom that was revived under Baron and largely rebuilt by Bezos, who purchased The Post for $250 million from the Graham family in August, 2013.

Bezos has made big investments in the company’s technology and newsgathering operations, enabling it to weather the long and continuing downturn in the newspaper business. The heart of The Post’s business success has been its ability to attract digital subscribers; it now has 3 million, triple its total in 2016, but still well behind its chief rival the New York Times and its 7.5 million.

It remains one of the world’s most widely read news sites, with 88 million unique visitors in March, according to the ComScore digital tracking firm. The success of its digital operations has cushioned a long slide in print circulation, which now stands at around 200,000 daily and 300,000 on Sunday, both mere fractions of their peak.

Despite the pandemic, which punished the already ailing news business, The Post turned an annual profit. Newsroom employees were rewarded in January with new year’s bonuses of $2021.

In taking one of the most high profile jobs in American journalism, Buzbee will inevitably face comparisons to Baron, who guided The Post to 10 Pulitzer Prizes during his tenure. Baron also faced some internal dissension over his handling of matters involving race and diversity, among others.

During Buzbee’s tenure as executive editor in 2019, AP reporters won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for their coverage of the war in Yemen. That same year, AP’s reporting on the Trump Administration’s controversial migrant family separation policy was a Pulitzer finalist.

Buzbee said she plans to relocate to Washington later this month. She has two daughters, Emma 21, and Margaret, 20, and has been widowed since 2016 following the death of her husband, John Buzbee, who was a foreign-service officer and Mideast specialist at the State Department.


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