On Monday evening, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the fourth inheritor to Adolph Ochs’ Times Co. heirloom, and the paper’s former publisher, hosted an intimate gathering at his West Side penthouse to celebrate the launch of Marty Baron’s new memoir, which chronicles his time atop The Washington Post amid the Trump–Bezos era. On a rooftop terrace overlooking the park and midtown, Times chairman A.G. (Pinch’s son) and executive editor Joe Kahn commingled with incoming CNN chief executive Mark Thompson, NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde, and The New Yorker’s David Remnick. There were plenty of other swells: philanthropic people, foundation types, and even Liev Schreiber, who famously portrayed Baron in Spotlight. Inevitably, some of these conversations turned to media topics du jour: Thompson’s plans to resuscitate and reinvent CNN, the Post’s search for its next C.E.O., the Times’ myriad achievements, etcetera.
Talking with sources about the party, it occurred to me that we are at a particularly pivotal moment in American journalism. In the last decade, the Sulzbergers, with the help of Thompson and Meredith Kopit Levien, have established the Times as the preeminent, always-on multimedia news-and-lifestyle brand for educated center-left America. CNN and the Post, which are arguably the only two institutions with the brand equity and pseudo-centrist editorial ambitions to vie with the Times in this space (for the time being, anyway), are both on the cusp of new regimes. In CNN’s case, as I’ve reported, all indications are that Thompson will strive to transform the network into a robust, digital-first news brand just as he helped transform the Times. At least, that’s David Zaslav’s idea.
In the Post’s case, the picture is a little murkier. Bezos remains committed to growing and globalizing that business and similarly keeping it competitive with the paper of record—the mystery, which has become a parlor game in media circles these days, is who he will task to do it. Last week, I reported that Patty Stonesifer, the interim Post Company C.E.O. charged with leading the search, had enlisted the Sucherman executive search firm to assist her in casting a wide net for potential candidates, from the worlds of print and digital media as well as television, tech, finance and beyond. Sucherman had provided value additive assistance on previous searches, but the perception is that Stonesifer is really running the show.