Andrea Mitchell   |  August 06, 2013

Washington Post columnist: Sale was an 'earthquake moment'

Andrea Mitchell talks to Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus and political reporter Chris Cillizza about the newspaper's sale to CEO Jeff Bezos.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> shockwaves reverberated through the news business with word that the legendary graham family is selling "the washington post " to crow and billionaire jeff bezos , an acknowledgement that an iconic paper cannot turn a profit in its current form. buyer around seller both say that the values of " washington post " journalism will not change. is that possible? joining me now for our daily fix, veteran " washington post " post" -- chris cillizza will join us in a moment but ruth marcus is here with us at the table. thank you for being with us. " washington post " columnist. were you in the meeting yesterday?

>> i was listening in on the conference call . we got a sort of company. wide alert. i think everybody's guess was that the building was going to be sold because it's been on the black and there was an announcement about where we were going to be moving. no one that i know expected this absolutely stunning news that the post was being sold.

>> i read that david ignatius , one of our friends and colleagues, some of the old-timers, were weepy about it. i personally felt it having known kay graham and all the grahams and know how big a sacrifice this really is for donald graham and katherine weymouth to make this decision, as hard as they tried to turn a profit on the print business.

>> i think you used a phenomenally accurate word, which is sacrifice. of i've had the privilege of working for the grahams for 30 of the 80 years. they've been at the helm of the "post" and this is something that i am convinced they are doing because they think it is in the long-term interests of the newspaper and it is survival and it's survival in a vibrant form that we all want to see it in, not in their personal self -interests. and so we all need to keep our fingers crossed that that's the right choice.

>> we just saw a picture of katherine graham with ben bradley during the water gate era. chris cillizza joins us now as well. chris, this is tough. i know you have such an online presence, you understand the challenges of transformation for every newspaper. but this is one of the last -- well, last great family-owned pap paper.

>> it's so funny. people have asked me in the last 12 hours -- and i heard ruth just talking about it -- well, did you know this was coming. i think i speak for almost everyone in the news room, the answer is no. when i started working here in 2005 , the idea that the graham family wouldn't own "the washington post " was not something i thought about because i never thought it was possibly. you mention though and kra, i think that this was ultimately a generous decision by the graham family. ruth mentioned this. i think i trust don graham with as much as any person who's not an immediate member of my family to make decisions that are in the best interests of this place and i think in choosing jeff bezos , i think it was a generous attempt by the graham family to say this is the best way for the journalism that this company became a major national newspaper on for that sort of journalism, whether it is in print, online, wherever it is, for that kind of journalism to continue to succeed. i think it is a sad day because it is the end of an era . i think it can be an exciting time, too. but, look. i don't think you're going to see the likes of a graham family again.

>> let me just say, just on a personal note, i was talking to one of your colleagues, a veteran war correspondent for the "post," and he said that he went into war zones knowing that if he of ever got kidnapped, don graham would get him out. the personal connection between people who work at this newspaper and donald graham and his mother before that, and the publisher now, i mean it is a very important connection. just on a very personal note, ruth and chris, i came to washington from philadelphia to work for post news week broadcasting for the local then " washington post "-owned cbs affiliated station here in washington, d.c. and when they -- i had an agreement with the owner that if they ended up selling the station here, which they ended up doing anticipating a supreme court decision on cross ownership of media concentration that never happened, when they ended up selling to a detroit station, detroit owner, they let me out of my contract just on a handshake because -- to come to nbc. 35 years ago. because i came under the understanding that i would only work for the graham family. that was how close the connection was, ruth .

>> i think all of us have that -- who have been around for a while any way, interest that personal connection with the graham family. i have a column that should be on later this afternoon talking a little bit about that personal connection. and that is why i think in the newsroom and to some degree outside there is trust in this decision, that it is in the " washington post 's" best interests because we've had so many years of seeing the graham family make decisions that were in the " washington post 's" best interests . and, you know, but it is also you talk about the impact on you. i started to get calls yesterday and e-mails from government officials, from my children, from friends, from family, saying we're stunned, we're reeling, it really is the sort of earthquake moment in the life of the capital.

>> it is a washington monument and it is also a very big business story, to