The most interesting parts of the book are not the ones you're hearing about in the interviews.
I just got around to reading your review, Jim, and it persuaded me to buy and read Baron's book. Whatever its or his flaws or shortcomings, it surely is an essential chronicle of newspapering in our time, maybe not unlike - in a different way and covering different ground - Alan Rusbridger's fascinating Breaking News (which of course should not be confused with your own great Breaking the News, which preserves a now long-ago moment as in amber).
Baron might well have written a good book. But on the political side, his tenure at the POST didn't rise to the challenge. As he explained in VANITY FAIR, the POST under his editorship didn't tell its readership clearly and consistently the truth about Trump that he himself recognized, because it had to be "more diplomatic." That outlook drove coverage, including continued "both-sidesing" and intentional refusal to call Trump's falsehoods "lies," plainly and simply. It also seem to have been behind his general refusal to accept the advice so often provided by so many thoughtful journalism analysts such as Jay Rosen, Dan Froomkin, and of course James Fallows. The result, as Paul Farhi makes clear in today's POST, is a continuing inability to cover Trump adequately.
An important factor for Baron and other press leaders seems to be a continuing desire to find something, anything that will bring Trumpists to mainstream media. They appear to think that if they downplay the facts adequately, take the edges off their condemnations, and otherwise play to Trumpist sympathies, they can recover that readership. There's no evidence that such a thing is possible, and in the meantime Baron's dedication to that goal weakened the POST as a truth-teller. Democracy doesn't have to die in darkness; it can also perish in part in the light of an editor's office.
My favorite editorial name, Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, once was asked what it was like to work for the Grahams by saying he gave thanks every day. Jeff Bezos seems to be trying to maintain at least some of that tradition. Now if they would just zero out the people who cover politics so that we wouldn't see Fred Ryan's dreams come true ... and if only Marty Baron had seen that.
My most direct contact with The Washington Post was quite different than yours. I was asked, in the early 1980s, to be a reference for Katherine Graham by a candidate for the presidency of The Washington Post Company.
I prepared assiduously for her call. She was a delight with a wonderful laugh. That I had help facilitate Jesse Lewis’s study trip to the Middle East she found interesting, since Jesse later became the first (or one of the first) Black journalists at the Post.
For an hour we have a rollicking discussion. Finally I said “Anyone who can put up with a pain in the ass like me and make me highly productive seems perfect for the Post position.” Her laugh consumed fifteen seconds. Then she said ‘I don’t need to go further. Dick is my man.’