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License to Will

will lewis
One revelation from this week’s saga is the culture clash between Lewis’s unapologetically blunt Fleet Street style and the self-serious decorum of Washington journalists. Photo: Carlotta Cardana/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
June 7, 2024

On Friday, Washington Post publisher and C.E.O. Will Lewis invited Patty Stonesifer, his predecessor and advisor, back to the paper’s headquarters on K Street to help manage the fallout from the turbulent leadership transition that he’d initiated on Sunday evening—a newsroom restructuring that effectively defenestrated executive editor Sally Buzbee, replacing her temporarily with former Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Matt Murray, and longer term with The Telegraph’s Rob Winnett. Stonesifer, a longtime consigliere to the paper’s owner, Jeff Bezos, was just back in Washington following an Amazon board meeting in Seattle. And, while she still comes into the office on occasion, she presumably experienced a fair amount of P.T.S.D. roaming the building this time around. 

Seven months earlier, after all, Stonesifer had left her position as the Post’s interim C.E.O. after attempting to clean up the mess left behind by Fred Ryan, the former publisher and top executive: stanch his nearly $100 million revenue shortfall, steady his frayed relations with employees, and help to recruit Lewis to finish the job. Now, Lewis needed Stonesifer’s help cleaning up his own mess, which had generated a week’s worth of strategically placed leaks and finger-pointing that threatened to sink the already beleaguered paper to yet another nadir.