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Marty Baron to step down as top editor of The Washington Post

"He is a terrific journalist and a true leader in American journalism," Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, said.
Image: Marty Baron
Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron smiles as The Washington Post wins two pulitzer prizes, on April 16, 2018, in their news room in Washington.Andrew Harnik / AP file

Marty Baron, the editor who led The Washington Post through a high-profile ownership transition and some of the most tumultuous years in American politics, said Tuesday that he will retire at the end of February.

“From the moment I arrived at The Post, I have sought to make an enduring contribution while giving back to a profession that has meant so much to me and that serves to safeguard democracy,” he wrote in a memo to his staff. "It has been my honor to work alongside hundreds of journalists who make The Post an indispensable institution."

In eight years at the Post, Baron led the paper to 10 Pulitzer Prizes. He was directly involved in the effort to free the paper's Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, from imprisonment in Iran, and sharply criticized then-President Donald Trump for turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's role in the murder of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

"He is a terrific journalist and a true leader in American journalism," Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, the Post's closest rival in newspaper journalism, said in an email. "And he was the right leader for this moment."

Baron, 66, joined the Post in 2013 after a storied career that included high-level editing jobs at The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Miami Herald and The Boston Globe. At the Globe, he helped lead the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Catholic Church's child molestation scandal that was later dramatized in the movie "Spotlight."

That year, Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos bought the Post for $250 million from its longtime owners, the Graham family. He quickly set about reinventing the 140-year-old paper by boosting its digital subscription business and giving Baron the resources to significantly increase the size of its staff.

"Under Marty’s eight years of newsroom leadership, The Washington Post has experienced a dramatic resurgence and has soared to new journalistic heights," Fred Ryan, the CEO and publisher of The Post, wrote in a memo to employees.

Like other editors of journalism's old guard, Baron was publicly criticized by some Washington Post staffers for his failure to prioritize racial equality across the paper's leadership and rank-and-file. Several of the paper's most notable Black employees, including Kimbriell Kelly and Wesley Lowery, left the paper during his tenure.

With Baron at the helm, Bezos took a hands-off approach to the Post's editorial operations. Now, there are questions about who his successor will be — and what role Bezos will play in determining who that is.

On that issue, Ryan said only that "the search will be a broad and inclusive one, considering both outstanding internal candidates as well as journalists at other publications with the vision and ability to build upon Marty’s success."

Bezos also commended Baron in an Instagram post.

"Our success these past several years would not and simply could not have happened without you," the Amazon CEO wrote. "You leave behind a newsroom that is bigger and stronger and more thoughtful than ever."

"You led with integrity, always — even when it was exhausting (which it often was)," he added. "You are both swashbuckling and careful. You are disciplined and empathetic."