Katharine Graham


Katharine Graham

Katharine Graham’s Personal History is an extraordinary autobiography that won the Pulitzer Prize. It spanned the ownership of the Washington Post as a family business. Started with Eugene Myer, the Post was inherited by Phil Graham - his son-in-law, passed on to Kay, Myer’s daughter, and ended up in the hands of Don, Myer’s grandson.

Eugene laid the foundation of the Post. Throughout his leadership as publisher, the paper was competing with four other newspapers in Washington DC. His venture was losing money, but as publisher he held on to it, and set its editorial standards. Eventually, he transferred its reigns to Phil – a Harvard graduate who had just wrapped up his service in the military. He became the publisher, and with Kay they controlled most of the shares.

During this period Phil made acquisitions that included Newsweek, WTOP-TV in Washington DC, and WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida. He became active politically, and was responsible for Lyndon B. Johnson becoming vice president to John F. Kennedy. Phil was also a member of numerous boards, and was nominated chairman of COMSAT. His work load was phenomenal, and he broke down under pressure suffering from manic depression. As Phil was recuperating from this illness, he committed suicide at their country home Glen Welby.

The Post therefore fell into the hands of Kay who later became its president and publisher. In her memoir she expressed self-doubt in her ability about running the Washington Post Company. But as the years passed, she grew in confidence. The Post chief competitor was the Star, but there were other major problems she had to grapple with. She made an outstanding pick in Ben Bradley as editor. She confronted the difficulties incurred with the Pentagon Papers, steered the Post through the Water Gate years, witnessed the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon, and dealt with the debilitating pressmen strike - all the time wondering if the company would fold.

In the 1970’s her son Don was at the reigns of the Post. By then it had become public. The Post was making money and its rival the Star was no longer publishing. However, Don’s tenure was marred by the Janet Cooke’s incident who had won the Pulitzer Prize. The only problem was that her story about drugs and a child was false. The Post had to return this prize and Cooke was fired.          



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