On February 24, at roughly 6:47 p.m., Washington Post Editor in Chief Marcus Brauchli confirmed to the world that Sally Quinn, Washington socialite and wife of former WaPo editor Ben Bradlee, had been booted from the print version of the paper for writing an absolutely atrocious column about the fact that her son’s wedding date conflicted with her step-grandson’s wedding date (that’s what we think we read — the Quinn/Bradlee family tree is more like a briar patch).
Below is a handy guide for understanding the animus against Quinn, who was once one of Washington’s most important social power players.
1.) Quinn gives the Washington Post the one thing it really needs: readers. For this, Brauchli, WaPo, and the rest of the world absolutely hate her
In a recent story for the New Republic, media reporter Gabriel Sherman summed up the Washington Post’s dysfunction thusly: “Over the past year, the Post has folded its business section into the A-section, killed its book review, revamped its Sunday magazine, and redesigned the entire paper and Web site, while organizationally merging the print and online editions. Hundreds of staffers have left the Post since 2003, thanks to four rounds of buyouts. In 2008, the Post began losing money; in 2009, its advertising revenue dropped by $100 million. All of this while the paper was under siege from new competitors, national and local.”
Apart from the avalanche of unrestrained personal vitriol that fellow media types vommed All. Over. Quinn’s. Head, most WaPo-watching stories follow Snyder’s formula: They are almost exclusively about WaPo’s inner workings and the ramifications for print media. (See the salon story by Sherman; Style editor Henry Allen’s right fist; Style editor Henry Allen’s other right fist; snowball fights; countless stories about the Post’s ignorance of what “Inner-Net” is.)
Quinn’s column brought the focus back to content. Instead of trying to figure out who in Style threw the first punch and whether Brauchli took off his shirt before intervening, readers were — and still are — poring over Quinn’s self-expose with graph paper and compasses in hopes of discerning whether Ben Bradlee’s uncle’s nephew is set to marry his pet cactus or the other way around.
As a reward for giving the Washington Post the most editorial attention it’s received since devoting a 12-part series to the death of some white girl, Brauchli went off and canned Quinn’s column for not being boring enough and her colleagues trashed “The Party” as a “total joke.”
Chief proponents of this POV: In an alternate, more earnest universe, Wonkette’s pseudo-outrage over Quinn’s firing could be interpreted as sincere concern. The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley, were she not totally unaware of the things happening in the world, could also provide a padded shoulder to cry on.
2.) There is a new Washington, and Sally Quinn is the old Washington
David Carr, who reports on media for the New York Times, set up this suppertime metaphor: “The Washington that Ms. Quinn covers, one governed by convivial elites who battle by day and clink glasses at night, no longer exists. In the old paradigm, people with different points of view would assemble in various salons of Georgetown and set aside their differences over an Old Fashioned before the coq au vin was even served. Now the butter knife has been replaced by a machete. People with opposing political points of view are less likely to eat with the loyal opposition at night than to try to dine on them in a quick hit on MSNBC or Fox News.”