The past year was a momentous one at The Washington Post, from the sale to Amazon's Jeff Bezos to deep reporting on the National Security Agency to the paper's team coverage of the Navy Yard shooting.
Marty Baron, who took over as executive editor at the start of 2013, reflected Tuesday night on his first year atop the masthead and looked ahead to 2014 in a New Year's Eve memo to staff.
"A year ago, you welcomed me to The Washington Post, and it has been an inspiring run ever since," Baron wrote. "Inspiring because of the extraordinary journalism you delivered to our readers, whether they opted for us online or in print, whether their attention was drawn to the dysfunction of national government, tensions and tragedy elsewhere in the world, or news of urgent drama down the street."
A couple of the biggest questions right now in the Post newsroom are what influence Bezos may bring in 2014 and whether Ezra Klein, the founder and editor of Wonkblog, will leave the paper to start a new venture.
While Baron mentioned Wonkblog, along with spin-offs like The Switch and KnowMore, he didn't give any indication of where things stand. And Baron didn't mention Bezos at all.
Instead, the Post's top editor focused on the past year's journalistic accomplishments and what he hopes will be "another year of exceptional work."
The full memo, obtained by The Huffington Post, is below:
A year ago, you welcomed me to The Washington Post, and it has been an inspiring run ever since. Inspiring because of the extraordinary journalism you delivered to our readers, whether they opted for us online or in print, whether their attention was drawn to the dysfunction of national government, tensions and tragedy elsewhere in the world, or news of urgent drama down the street.
As a reader and as your colleague, I feel very grateful and proud, and I look forward to 2014 in anticipation of another year of exceptional work.
There is always risk in looking back on the accomplishments of a single year. You want to be specific, but terrible omissions seem inevitable. With such a remarkable year, however, it's worth reflecting on how much you achieved.
This was a year of powerful accountability journalism: exposing surveillance by the NSA of unimagined breadth and intrusiveness; detailing abuses by companies that buy up tax liens in the District; investigating undisclosed gifts accepted by the governor of Virginia; disclosing practices that needlessly run up health care costs; reconstructing the mistakes and misjudgments behind the opening of HealthCare.gov; revealing manipulation of the federal contracting system; shedding light on hidden American involvement in Mexico's drug wars and Colombia's fight against FARC rebels; documenting how medical practices in the NFL are disturbingly different from the norm; entertainingly recounting the government's inability to eliminate even the smallest, silliest, most wasteful programs.
When major news broke, you reacted swiftly, with magical results online and in print: gripping, meticulously accurate, and penetrating coverage of the Navy Yard shootings; coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings that was ferociously competitive, impressively comprehensive, and suffused with unmatched enterprise; unequaled coverage of the rolling financial crises, going from fiscal cliff at the end of 2012 to threats of debt default, to sequester, to shutdown, to year-end, short-term compromise; and, of course, notable local debacles in the world of professional sports.
You were a model of courage and resourcefulness and dedication overseas. The accounts from Syria and neighboring countries gave readers an up-close picture of tragedy that seems without end. The stories from Egypt both captured drama on the ground and yielded insights into a fractious political landscape. In Afghanistan, you gave unsettling definition to what will be left behind as Americans withdraw.
This is also a newsroom of strong voices, on the arts, on sports, on politics, on policy, on books, and on stories unearthed around the corner from where we live. Our columnists and our critics are among the best in the country, and for them 2013 was a year of eloquence and high impact.
From Wonkblog and WorldViews to the ambitious series on the future of the space program or the present-day culture of guns in America, you've made The Post a place that invites readers into the most complex topics. You explained so that everyone can understand, without sacrificing nuance or sophistication. And you brought to this effort a lot of artful storytelling.
Storytelling this past year has been exquisite. Who could not have ached along with a Newtown couple "finally coming into the lonely quiet" after losing Daniel, 7 years old? Who could not have imagined themselves struggling, as one mother did, with worry about a 19-year-old with severe mental illness and the extremes to which he might go? Who did not have eyes opened to the world of hunger and poverty and dependency and political combat that revolves around the growing population on food stamps? Who was not absorbed by the tale of a drifter, a nun, and a house painter who penetrated the exterior of one of nation's most secure nuclear facilities, in either an act of supreme conscience or one of reckless fantasy?
Our storytelling tools have multiplied with the advance of technology, and you were able to use them masterfully: lively videos that explained politics, health, budgets, and more, and videos that drew readers intimately into the lives of others; print and digital graphics that helped them navigate subjects that otherwise might have been intimidating; photography that once again proved that a single image can be the single most powerful form of storytelling. And then there is design, essential to creating an instant and visceral connection with readers, where we are demonstrating an admirable boldness on every platform.
You innovated like crazy. New blogs like The Switch and GovBeat were instant hits, as was the extremely social and highly addictive KnowMore. New article formats online gave us more effective and dramatic ways to present our strongest enterprise. These, along with experiments like Topic.ly and TruthTeller, gave us a lot to talk about with readers while also offering substantial commercial appeal.
Overall, we have embraced the digital future with enthusiasm. We've been fortunate to have at our side, or breathing down our necks, some very smart and savvy people - producers and members of the social engagement team - who act as generous but insistent mentors.
We know, too, how reliant we are on the multiplatform editors, who safeguard our credibility and our standards every day, throughout the day, under severe deadline pressure. And there are editors in every department who offer sage counsel and strong guidance while ceding the limelight to others.
Fulfilling our mission requires all of us to exchange skills and ideas and our best judgments with each other. All of us are proud to share in the successes of The Washington Post. I may be the proudest.
Many thanks, and happy new year.