The Washington Post, which provided Watergate coverage that inspired a generation of idealistic young people to go into journalism, says the jig is officially up. A future Richard Nixon will sleep better at night knowing Washington Post Co. is focused on training medical technicians rather than chasing down crooked politicians.
That’s the message that WPC CEO Don Graham (pictured at right) delivered to analysts at the UBS telecom and media conference in New York today. He told the cheering Wall Streeters that his company wants to be known as an “education and media company,” a move reflecting the cold fact that Kaplan (test-prep, K-12 tutoring and professional training) for the first time generated more than half of the company’s quarterly revenues.
Graham painted a flattering picture of Kaplan’s potential, while relegating WaPo, one of the top three most influential papers in the country, to the “caboose” portion of the presentation. He began and ended his speech with Kaplan hosannas, which fills 11 pages of the 21-page transcript of Graham's speech. The remainder is dedicated to cable, Post-Newsweek TV, Newsweek and finally the Post. [Click for Graham's speech, PDF]
Graham doffed the obligatory tip of the hat to the Post’s “brilliant” newsroom, saying its reporters are “doing work that’s as good as anybody’s in the U.S.” That’s faint praise. In the next breath, the CEO further delighted analysts, telling them management is committed to squeezing further costs from the paper as it tries to figure out how to produce a “definitive 21st century news site.”
Jonathan Grayer, the head of Kaplan, rubbed more salt into the newsroom's wound, portraying WaPo akin to a corporate ball and chain. The 42-year-old trainer-in-chief is amazed that WPC is “still described in the media as a newspaper publisher.” He told Ahrens that it is up to the board of directors to decide if Kaplan profits should go to subsidize the Post or Newsweek if they lost money.
The countdown has begun for WaPo. Look for a spin-off to appease the gods of Wall Street. One can safely bet that Washington Post Co. will soon have a new name to go with the rebranding bit.