The Washington Post Company
Katharine Meyer Graham is world renowned for her leadership, particularly during her 10–year reign as publisher of the internationally acclaimed Washington Post. During that time, Graham won a United States Supreme Court decision to publish excerpts from the United States government's classified Pentagon study, known as "The Pentagon Papers." She also supported investigative reporting of Watergate, resulting in the resignation of then U.S. President Richard Nixon. "Kay was an extraordinary person," said former CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite to CNN. "As a bereaved widow, she surprised everyone with her strength to take over the Washington Post to make it one of the world's great newspapers. She is greatly admired, of course, everywhere in the very competitive world of politics and publishing."
Katharine Meyer was born on June 16, 1917, into a prominent New York City multi–millionaire family of Jewish and German decent. Her father, Eugene Meyer, was a banker who purchased the newspaper Washington Post as a hobby and built up a lucrative publishing empire. Her mother, Agnes (Ernst) Meyer, was an author and philanthropist. Katharine's education included the elite Madeira School in Greenway, Virginia, where she pursued her growing interest in journalism by working on the school paper. Her higher education included a year at Vassar College. But she became critical of what she felt was Vassar's conservative climate and transferred to the University of Chicago, considered radical in the 1930s. During summer vacations, Katharine worked at the Post, but after she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history, she moved to California and worked as a waterfront reporter for the San Francisco News. She covered a strike on the waterfront, which would later serve as a valuable learning experience. A year later, Katharine followed through on her father's suggestion to return to Washington, where she became part of the editorial staff on the Washington Post. Earning $25 a week, she handled the "Letters to the Editor" department and also wrote some 100 editorials.
In 1939 Katharine met the love of her life, Philip Graham. Philip, two years Katharine's junior, was not a stranger to poverty. His family had struggled until they achieved a more prosperous lifestyle. His father, Ernest Graham, became a successful dairy farmer, later winning a seat in the Florida state senate. His mother, Florence, was a former schoolteacher who instilled in Philip a lifelong love of learning. Bright, eager, and with an unaffected, easy–going manner, Philip did extremely well at the University of Florida and went on to Harvard Law School. He later became a law clerk to Supreme Court justice Stanley Reed and then to Felix Frankfurter. Katharine met him at a party where the aggressive and funny Philip immediately got the attention of the more subdued Katharine. According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Philip told her, "He was going to marry her, and did not want her father's money." Instead, they would ". . . move to Florida. He would go into politics and they would be so poor she would have only two dresses." The couple was married on June 5, 1940.
Katharine was unprepared for the traditional role of wife. Because of her wealthy upbringing, she had never learned to cook, but she persevered, determined to be a model wife. She willingly deferred to her husband while he encouraged her to retain her job. At the same time, Katharine's father, Eugene, encouraged Philip to consider taking over the Washington Post. But when World War II broke out, Philip enlisted. Although Philip's dream was to have a career in politics, he agreed to his father–in–law's offer before he went overseas. Meanwhile, Katharine's father continually ignored his own daughter's interest in the paper. After distinguishing himself in the U.S. army, where he was awarded the legion of merit for decoding Japanese military strategy and identifying bombing sites in the Philippines, Philip returned as a major. Subsequently, he became publisher of the Washington Post, and he and Katharine were given 5000 shares of voting stock by her father, assuring the newspaper would remain in the family. Philip received the majority of the stock, while Katharine received the lesser share. Together the couple had four children, and Katharine settled into the role of wife and mother.
Philip had many opportunities to capitalize on his leadership skills and enhance his reputation as a dynamic publisher. He confronted McCarthyism, the unwarranted anti–communism campaign that ultimately persecuted innocent people, with a scathing editorial that likened Senator Joseph McCarthy to a Salem witch hunter. This set the paper's more liberal tone and associated the paper with the Democratic Party. At the same time, Philip aggressively expanded the publishing company over the years, acquiring Newsweek, the News Service, and several broadcast stations.
Despite his successes, however, Philip became increasingly ill with manic depression, a psychiatric disease little understood in that era. Over the next five years, he engaged in promiscuous behavior, verbal attacks against his wife, outrageous actions, and suicidal thoughts. Although the family provided Philip with the best care then available, he succumbed to depression and shot himself on August 3, 1963. His death left his widow with the doubly formidable task of raising four children and taking care of her family business.
After her husband's death, Katharine Graham became president of the publishing business, focusing special attention on the Washington Post. One of her most significant changes at the paper was to appoint the innovative Benjamin C. Bradlee as editor. With Bradlee at the helm, the paper attracted fresh new reporting talent. This affected news coverage and gained the Washington Post worldwide attention. The paper's reputation was further enhanced when, in 1971, Graham defied a restraining order and pursued publication of the famous "Pentagon Papers," revealing U.S. government involvement in the Vietnam War. Graham fought government efforts to censor the material, which led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right for the Washington Post to publish the story.
Another opportunity to report controversy came with the 1972 investigation of a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex. Courageous Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered the story. After the investigative reporting revealed illegal governmental involvement, a national scandal erupted, and President Richard Nixon was forced to resign to avoid impeachment proceedings. In 1973 the Post received a Pulitzer Prize for public service.
Graham's leadership at the Washington Post helped to enhance the paper's reputation and boost circulation. When she decided in 1971 to change the privately owned publishing company to a public corporation, her efforts to attract investors succeeded and stock value soared.
Graham made the news again in 1975 when she was faced with a 139–day pressmen strike that disabled presses. Determined to keep the press running, she hired non–union pressmen—a controversial move characteristic of Graham's decisive management style. Editor & Publisher reported Graham's remarks on this topic to members of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association in 1997: "We were not out to bust unions . . . [but] we had to make the fateful decision to replace the union and make sure it was legal. And it was very traumatic . . . It was a really awful thing to have 200 families out of jobs. And we offered them to come back if they would resign from the union, and only 20 did . . . ."
In 1979 Graham turned the title of publisher over to her son, Donald, but remained an enthusiastic advisor and consultant on all aspects of the corporation. She continued as chairwoman of the Washington Post until 1993, and even after retirement she remained active as a speaker. At 81 years of age, she authored a best selling and Pulitzer Prize–winning autobiography titled Personal History.
Chronology: Katharine Graham
1963: Became president of Washington Post Company.
1969: Became publisher of the Washington Post.
1972: Supported Woodward and Bernstein reporting Watergate.
1973: Became CEO of The Washington Post Company.
1973: Washington Post wins Pulitzer Prize for public service in uncovering the Watergate conspiracy.
1979: Became chairman of Washington Post Company; ceased to be publisher of Washington Post; became first woman publisher elected president of American Newspaper Publishers' Association.
1989: Fortune magazine named the Post Company one of 20 most profitable corporations.
1993: Retired as chairman of Washington Post Company.
1998: Won Pulitzer Prize for best–selling autobiography Personal History.
Graham passed away on the July 18, 2001, while hospitalized for head injuries sustained from falling on a walk in Sun Valley, Idaho. She was in Idaho for a business conference, still very active and involved at age 84. Washington Post concluded of her, "Katharine Graham's life ended the way she said she wanted it to: 'The only thing I think any of us want,' she once said, 'is to last as long as we're any good. And then not.'"
Thousands gathered for Graham's funeral. The mourners ran the gamut from the halls of power to friends and fans alike. Such notable statesman and dignitaries included former president Clinton, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former secretary of defense Robert McNamara, and President Bush remembered Graham as "the beloved first lady of Washington journalism."
Social and Economic Impact
Katharine Meyer Graham transcended the initial disrespect of her male peers in publishing to become one of the most powerful women in America. Emphasizing freedom of the press, she strengthened the role of newspapers in exposing government actions. Her insistence in publishing the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate story made her a force to be reckoned with in journalism. Graham also exercised effective leadership, developing a reputation as a woman "who mastered the intricacies of profit margins [and] strategic planning," according to the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Graham built the Washington Post Company into a thriving media company and secured the Washington Post's reputation as one of the country's leading newspapers.
After breaking the 1975 strike, the Washington Post promoted the hiring of minorities and women, and Graham welcomed the newly diverse workforce. She stated at a Women in Communications luncheon in 1984 that she recognized that for women to get ahead in business their close relationships sometimes suffered, adding, "But men in power have always been willing to pay this price." Despite such hard–headed words, Graham remains known as an editor who maintained excellence by supporting her reporters and encouraging those who worked for her.
Sources of Information
"An American Original." Washington Post, 30 July 2001.
Childs, Kelvin. "Kay Graham's Side of the Story." Editor & Publisher, 15 November 1997.
Epstein, Joseph. "The Colonel and the Lady." Commentary, August 1997.
Green, Michelle. "Katharine Graham: A Publishing Power Broker Writes a Very Personal History." Washington Post, 24 February 1997.
"Katharine Graham 1917–2001." The Washington Post Online, 2001. Available at http://www.washpostco.com.
"Katharine Graham Dies at 84." Washington Post, 20 July 2001. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com.
"Legendary Washington Post Chief Kay Graham Dies." 18 July 2001. Available at http://www.cnn.com.
"Media's Katharine Graham, 1917–2001." People.com, 20 July 2001. Available at http://people.aol.com.
Nelton, Sharon. People.com, 20 July 2001. Available at http://people.aol.com.
"100 Women of the Millennium," Women.com, 20 July 2001. Available from http://www.women.com.
Overholser, Geneva. "Katharine Graham." Women.com, 20 July 2001. Available from http://www.women.com.
Platt, Adam. "Special Kay." Harpers Bazaar, February 1997.
"Remembering Katharine Graham." The Washington Post Writers Group, 2001. Available at http://www.washpostco.com.
"A Tribute to Katharine Graham." BusinessWeek.com, 20 July 2001. Available at http://www.businessweek.com.
The Washington Post Company. Available at http://www.washpostco.com
"The Washington Post Company." BusinessWeek.com, 20 July 2001. Available at http://www.businessweek.com.
"The Washington Post Company." Hoovers Online, November 2001. Available at http://www.hoovers.com.
The renowned publisher Katharine Graham took over the management of the Washington Post after the death of her husband. She quickly guided the Post to national prominence while expanding her publishing empire.
Katharine Meyer Graham was born in New York City on June 16, 1917, the fourth of five children born to Eugene Meyer, a banker, and Agnes Elizabeth (Ernst) Meyer, an author and generous contributor to charity. In 1933, when Katharine was still a student at the Madeira School in Greenway, Virginia, her father bought the dying Washington Post for $875,000. Already retired, Meyer purchased the paper because he had grown restless and wanted a voice in the nation's affairs. His hobby turned into the capitol's leading paper.
From an early age Katharine Meyer showed an interest in publishing. At the Madeira School she worked on the student newspaper. In 1935 she entered Vassar College, but the following year transferred to the University of Chicago (Illinois), which she regarded as a more exciting campus. Her father mailed her the daily Post to keep her connected. The Washington Post was her summer job throughout college. Graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1938, she went to San Francisco, California, to take a job as a waterfront reporter for the San Francisco News. She returned to Washington a year later and joined the editorial staff of the Post, where she also worked in the circulation department (department in charge of keeping track of the number of papers needed for subscribers and routes).
On June 5, 1940, she married Philip L. Graham, a Harvard Law School graduate and clerk for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Her husband entered the army during World War II (1939–45; a war fought between Germany, Japan, and Italy—the Axis Powers—and Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States—the Allies) and she gave up reporting to move with him from base to base. When he was sent overseas, Katharine returned to her job at the Post.
After his discharge in 1945, Eugene Meyer persuaded Philip Graham to join the Washington Post as associate publisher. Meyer, who had a warm relationship with his son-inlaw, turned the business over to the Grahams in 1948 for one dollar. Philip Graham helped his father-in-law build the business, acquiring the Post 's competitor, the Washington Times Herald, in 1954. In 1961 he purchased Newsweek magazine for a sum estimated to be between eight and fifteen million dollars. He also expanded the radio and television operations of the company, and in 1962 he helped to set up an international news service despite his growing mental shakiness.
Tragedy to triumphs
In 1963 Philip Graham's mental illness led to his suicide. His public success had done little to help his mental illness. Katharine took over the presidency of the company. A recognized Washington woman who had devoted her time to raising her daughter and three sons, she had never lost her interest in the affairs of the family business. She studied the operations, asked questions, consulted with old friends such as James Reston (1909–1995) and Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), and made key decisions to bring in skilled journalists to improve the quality of the paper. She selected Benjamin C. Bradlee (1921–), the Washington bureau chief for Newsweek, as managing editor in 1965. (He later became executive editor.)
During the 1970s, Graham backed Bradlee when the Post began making news as well as reporting it. Graham was sincere in her commitment to provide accurate reporting. An example of this is her many visits to army bases during the Vietnam War (1954–75; a war in which the United States aided South Vietnam in a failed attempt to try and stop a Communist North Vietnam takeover). Her commitment led to a controversy over constitutional rights in June 1971. The Post, along with the New York Times, struggled with the government over the right to publish sections of a classified Pentagon study of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, which was compiled during President Lyndon Johnson's (1908–1973) administration. A court order to stop the publication of the documents led to a U.S. Supreme Court call for a decision. In a decision judged a major victory for freedom of the press, the Court upheld the papers' right to publish the "Pentagon Papers."
Further controversy followed in June 1972, when an investigative reporting team, Carl Bernstein (1944–) and Bob Woodward (1943–), began to probe the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex. Their articles in the Post linked the break-in to a larger pattern of illegal activities, which led to the blame of over forty members of the Nixon administration and to the resignation of President Richard Nixon (1913–1994) in August 1974.
It was newsbreaks like these that granted Graham status as the most powerful woman in publishing. As chairman and principal owner of the Washington Post Company, she controlled the fifth largest publishing empire in the nation. In the period from 1975 to 1985 profits grew better than 20 percent annually.
In 1979 Graham turned the title of publisher over to her son Donald. But she remained active in all areas of the business, from advising on editorial policy (opinions the paper would stand behind) to making plans for not only the Post and Newsweek, but also the Trenton Times, four television stations, and 49 percent interest in a paper company. In Washington she was an impressive presence. Heads of state, politicians, and leaders in journalism and the arts gathered at her Georgetown home and for weekends at her farm in northern Virginia.
Under Graham's leadership the Washington Post grew in influence until it was judged as one of the two best newspapers in the country. It was read and consulted by presidents and prime ministers in this country and abroad and had a powerful influence on political life. At the same time the Post, which boasts a circulation (the number of copies sold or delivered) of 725,000, serves as a hometown paper for a general audience who enjoyed the features, cartoons, and advice columns.
Graham also became an award-winning author in her later years. In 1997 she published her memoirs, Personal History, which earned her a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1998.
Katharine Graham was described as a "working publisher." Determined to preserve the family character of the business, she took up the reins after the death of her husband and worked hard not only to build but to improve her publishing empire. A forceful and courageous publisher, she knew when to rely on the expert advice of professionals and allowed her editors maximum responsibility. At the same time she strengthened her publications through her willingness to spend money to attract top talent in journalism and management.
On July 17, 2001, Katharine Graham died in Boise, Idaho, leaving the nation grieving for one of its best-loved female publishers. Katharine's impact on America was evident in the televised National Cathedral funeral watched by American citizens far and wide. She was eulogized (remembered after death) by a large array of public figures, ranging from former first lady Nancy Reagan (1921–) and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger (1923–) to Noor Al Hussein (1951–), queen of Jordan. The one quality that each highlighted in Katharine's life was her ability to maintain friendships despite holding a different viewpoint. Katharine Graham had a personal style that is rare in political circles.
For More Information
Davis, Deborah. Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1979.
Felsenthal, Carol. Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story. New York: Putnam's, 1993.
Graham, Katharine. Personal History. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1997.
Katharine Meyer Graham
Katharine Meyer Graham
The renown publisher Katharine Meyer Graham (born 1917) took over management of The Washington Post after the death of her husband. She guided it to national prominence and acclaim while expanding her publishing empire.
Katharine Meyer Graham was born in New York City on June 16, 1917, the fourth of five children born to Eugene Meyer, a banker, and Agnes Elizabeth (Ernst) Meyer, an author and philanthropist. In 1933, when Katharine was still a student at the Madeira School in Greenway, Virginia, her father bought the moribund Washington Post for $875,000. Already retired, Meyer purchased the paper because he had grown restless and wanted a voice in the nation's affairs. His hobby became the capital's most influential paper.
From an early age Katharine Meyer showed an interest in publishing. At the Madeira School she worked on the student newspaper. In 1935 she entered Vassar College, but the following year transferred to the University of Chicago, which she regarded as a more stimulating campus. During her summer vacations she worked on The Washington Post. After her graduation with a B.A. degree in 1938 she went to California to take a job as a waterfront reporter for the San Francisco News. She returned to Washington a year later and joined the editorial staff of the Post, where she also worked in the circulation department.
On June 5, 1940, she married Philip L. Graham, a Harvard Law School graduate and clerk for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Her husband entered the Army in World War II, and she gave up reporting to move with him from base to base. When he was sent overseas to the Pacific Theater, Katharine returned to her job at the Post. After his discharge in 1945, Eugene Meyer persuaded Philip Graham to join The Washington Post as associate publisher. Meyer, who had a warm relationship with his son-in-law, eventually turned the business over to him, selling all the voting stock in the company to the Grahams for $1 in 1948. Philip Graham helped his father-in-law to build the business, acquiring the Post's competitor, the Washington Times Herald, in 1954 and in 1961 purchasing Newsweek magazine for a sum estimated to be between eight and 15 million dollars. He also expanded the radio and television operations of the company and in 1962 helped to establish an international news service.
In 1963 Philip Graham shot himself to death. Katharine Graham took over the presidency of the company. A prominent Washington matron who had devoted her time to the raising of her daughter and three sons, she had never lost her interest in the affairs of the family business. She studied the operations, asked questions, consulted with such old friends as James Reston and Walter Lippmann, and made the key decisions which helped to bring in skilled journalists to improve the quality of the paper. She selected Benjamin C. Bradlee, the Washington bureau chief for Newsweek, as managing editor in 1965.
Graham gave Bradlee, who later became executive editor, a free hand and backed him during the 1970s when the Post began making news as well as reporting it. In June of 1971 the Post, along with the New York Times, became embroiled with the government over their right to publish excerpts from a classified Pentagon study of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam compiled during President Lyndon Johnson's administration. A court order to restrain the publication of the documents led to an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a decision judged a major victory for freedom of the press, the Court upheld the papers' right to publish the "Pentagon Papers."
Further controversy erupted when the investigative reporting team of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein began to probe the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex in June of 1972. Woodward's and Bernstein's articles in the Post linked the break-in to the larger pattern of illegal activities that ultimately led to the indictment of over 40 members of the Nixon administration and to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August of 1974.
Graham, generally conceded to be the most powerful woman in publishing, held the title of publisher at The Washington Post starting in 1969. As chairman and principal owner of the Washington Post Company, she controlled the fifth largest publishing empire in the nation. In the period 1975 to 1985 profits grew better than 20 percent annually.
In 1979 Graham turned the title of publisher over to her son Donald (born 1945). But she remained active in all areas of the business, from advising on editorial policy to devising strategies for diversifying the company's holdings, which included, in addition to the Post and Newsweek, the Trenton Times, four television stations, and 49 percent interest in a paper company. In Washington she was a formidible presence. Heads of state, politicians, and leaders in journalism and the arts gathered at her Georgetown home and weekends at her farm in northern Virginia.
Under Graham's leadership, The Washington Post grew in influence and stature until by common consent it was judged one of the two best newspapers in the country. It was read and consulted by presidents and prime ministers in this country and abroad and exerted a powerful influence on political life. At the same time, the Post, which boasts a circulation of 725,000, served as a hometown paper for a general audience who enjoyed the features, cartoons, and advice columns.
Katharine Graham was described as a "working publisher." Determined to preserve the family character of the business, she took up the reins after the death of her husband and worked hard not only to build but to improve her publishing empire. A forceful and courageous publisher, she knew when to rely on the expertise of professionals and allowed her editors maximum responsibility, at the same time strengthening her publications by her willingness to spend to attract top talent in journalism and management.
Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s article in Vogue (January 1, 1967) provides interesting insights into Katharine Meyer Graham's background and career. Martin Mayer in "Lady as Publisher," Harper's (December 1968), interviewed Graham. For articles dealing with her business empire, see Time (February 7, 1977) and Forbes (April 19, 1984). She was listed in Who's Who in America (43rd edition, 1984-1985) and The World Who's Who of Women (4th edition). Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward in All the President's Men (1974) deal with The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate. For an unauthorized biography, see Deborah Davis, Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post (1979) or Carol Felsenthal, Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katherine Graham Story (1993). In 1997, Katherine Meyer Graham published her memoirs Personal History □
Daughter of Eugene and Agnes Ernst Meyer; married Philip L.Graham, 1940 (died 1963); children: Elizabeth, Donald, William, Stephen
As a reporter for the San Francisco News, Katharine Graham's first serious assignment was to lure delegates attending the convention of the Women's Christian Temperance Union to a bar with the simple proposition that they visit the scene of the crimes they railed against. They agreed and she got her story. Years later, as publisher of the Washington Post, she was instrumental in enabling other reporters to get the story of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.
Graham's father, Eugene Meyer, came from a distinguished Jewish family with roots going back many generations in Alsace-Lorraine, France, while her mother, Agnes Ernst Meyer, came from a long line of Lutheran ministers. From each parent Graham received a passion for learning, ideas, strength, and leadership. Her father was a millionaire investor and her mother an intellectual and writer. Graham received an elite education. She attended Madeira, a private high school for girls in Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., where her family resided. She went on to Vassar College and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in 1938.
Rather than starting right away at the Washington Post, which her father bought in 1933 for $825,000, Graham worked in San Francisco for a year. In 1939 she returned to Washington and began her tenure with the Post as an editorial-page employee. As the most junior member of the editorial team, Graham's assignments were on the least important issues of the day—so-called light editorials. The titles themselves revealed just how light: "On Being a Horse," "Brains and Beauty," "Mixed Drinks," and "Spotted Fever." But work at the Post brought her into contact with experienced reporters. Through these developing friendships, Graham became involved in an increasingly lively social life with women and men whose life experience and backgrounds were quite different from her own. A pivotal introduction was to Philip Graham, who was then a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stanley Reed while waiting to clerk for Felix Frankfurter the following year. Phil Graham had been editor of the Harvard Law Review and was seen as brilliant, charismatic, and fascinating by this extended circle of determined young people. After a brief and intense courtship, Katharine and Phil married on 5 June 1940.
From the start, Phil Graham was apprehensive about his father-in-law's enormous wealth. He was determined that he and his new wife would live on his salary. Eugene Meyer was eager to have his bright and capable son-in-law employed at the Post and finally convinced him to come on board as associate publisher in 1946. After a few months, Meyer promoted him to publisher. In 1948 Meyer sold the paper to Katharine and Phil for a token sum. But believing a man should not be his wife's employee, Meyer gave Phil Graham three times the amount of Post stock held by Katharine. The newly formed Washington Post Company, with Philip as its president, began to enlarge in circulation and influence. Katharine's role during these years was behind the scenes and clearly subservient to Phil's leadership and direction. Her life changed dramatically when Phil began suffering from mental illness and committed suicide in August of 1963.
Fresh from this tragedy, Graham became president of the Post 's parent company. She felt unprepared for the challenge. "It's hard to describe how abysmally ignorant I was," she related in her memoir Personal History (1997). "I was also uneducated in even the basics of the working world." Nevertheless, she was knowledgeable enough to surround herself with a capable staff. She built the Post into a competitor of the New York Times. She named Benjamin C. Bradlee as managing editor in 1965, and he was instrumental in luring talented journalists away from other papers.
As publisher and chairperson of the board during these years, Graham was instrumental in guiding the decisions that determined the role the Post assumed. Two years after she became the paper's publisher; the Post became involved in the fight to publish the Pentagon Papers. The New York Times had been ordered by the U.S. government to refrain from publishing any more of the documents. Despite the risk of a restraining order on themselves as well as a violation of the injunction that had restricted the Times, Graham and the Post decided to publish the papers. Graham later pointed out: "The decision had to be made quickly. There had never before been prior restraint of the press. Weighing all factors, it seemed like the right thing to do. And I still feel the same." The Post did go to court for its action, but the Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of the two newspapers and their right to publish.
Graham and the Post regained national attention with coverage of the Watergate scandal. Two Post reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, were the foremost investigators of the crimes of the Nixon administration. Despite threats from the White House and warnings and criticism from her friend Henry Kissinger, Graham supported the reporters throughout. In 1973 the Post received a Pulitzer Prize for public service in uncovering the Watergate conspiracy.
Graham turned her journalistic skills to her own life in her autobiography Personal History. In a volume described as "disarmingly candid and immensely readable," she chronicles her personal transformation. She also provides an invaluable inside glimpse of some of the most critical turning points in American journalism. Graham describes her personal and professional growth with charm, intelligence, and grace, much the same way she lived her life. Personal History received a Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1998.
Davis, D., Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post (1979). Felsenthal, C., Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story (1993).
CA (1982, 1999). Larousse Dictionary of Women (1996). Who's Who in America (1999). Who's Who in the East (1997-1998).