Washington Post CEO Fred Ryan to Step Down Over ‘Decline in Civility’

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Fred Ryan, publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, announced that he is stepping down after nine years at Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper. Ryan cited “the decline in civility” in political discourse — and “more broadly across our society” — for his decision to leave the Post to lead the newly created nonpartisan Center on Public Civility, launched by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

In an earlier era, “Political leaders on opposite sides of the aisle could find common ground for the good of the country,” Ryan wrote in a memo to Washington Post staff announcing his departure. “Today, the decline in civility has become a toxic and corrosive force that threatens our social interactions and weakens the underpinnings of our democracy. I feel a strong sense of urgency about this issue.” (Read his memo below.)

Ryan said he will remain publisher of the Washington Post until Aug. 1. Amazon founder Bezos bought the newspaper in 2013 for $250 million.

Prior to joining the Post in September 2014, Ryan was president and CEO of Politico, which he co-founded in 2007. From 1995-2014, Ryan was also president and COO of Allbritton Communications, a broadcast and cable TV station group (sold to Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2014).

The Washington Post said Patty Stonesifer has been appointed interim CEO, effective immediately, overseeing the leadership team and steering the organization “through a period of transition.” Stonesifer will lead the search for a new publisher and CEO of the Post.

Stonesifer was the founding CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after serving in executive roles at Microsoft. She served on the board of regents and was chair of the Smithsonian Institution and the White House Council for Community Solutions. Stonesifer holds board roles at Amazon, the Rockefeller Foundation, Co-Impact and TheDream.us and was most recently president and CEO of Martha’s Table, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., committed to supporting children, families and communities.

“I have had the privilege over my career of leading great organizations with a laser focus on serving their mission and their communities. I have both respect and passion for the mission and the journalism of The Washington Post — one of the greatest newsrooms in the world — and I am delighted to join this team in supporting the values and sustaining the work of this important institution,” Stonesifer said in a statement.

Read Ryan’s memo to staff:

Dear Washington Post Colleagues,

Nine years ago, I was honored to be selected by Jeff Bezos to be Publisher and CEO of The Washington Post. Working with Jeff and the exceptional team at The Post has been an incredible experience and enormously gratifying.

Together, we have accomplished one of the most extraordinary transformations in modern media history. We have evolved from a primarily local print newspaper to become a global digital publication. We’ve added significantly to the tremendous team of journalists, engineers and business experts and have taken The Post through multiple years of profitability. We’ve launched an innovative new technology platform that is powering hundreds of other news sites around the world.

During this time, we have won multiple awards for exceptional journalism, including 13 Pulitzer Prizes, and we’ve twice been named “The World’s Most Innovative Media Company” by Fast Company.

As I have shared in conversations with many of you, I have a deep and growing concern about the decline in civility and respectful dialogue in our political process, on social media platforms and more broadly across our society. Many of us can recall an era when people could disagree without being disagreeable. Political leaders on opposite sides of the aisle could find common ground for the good of the country. Today, the decline in civility has become a toxic and corrosive force that threatens our social interactions and weakens the underpinnings of our democracy. I feel a strong sense of urgency about this issue.

As a result, I have decided to leave my position at The Post to lead the nonpartisan Center on Public Civility that is being launched by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. Jeff is personally providing support for the planning and design phase of this new initiative and supports my decision to make this move.

In order to provide advice and counsel during this transition, I have agreed to remain as Publisher of The Washington Post until August 1. Jeff will announce a new interim CEO later today. It is an exceptional individual that I hold in the highest regard.

In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to spending time with all of my friends and colleagues across The Post to convey my deep appreciation for your many impressive contributions to our success. I am committed to providing my full support as the interim CEO charts the course of this transition and the bright future ahead for The Post.

With my deepest appreciation to each of you,

Fred





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