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Don Graham As Icarus

Here’s Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, on the Graham family’s sale of her newspaper. First she compares Don Graham’s decision to the choice William Styron’s character Sophie, an Auschwitz survivor, made about which of her two children had to go to the crematorium, and says the people who would call that comparison “hyperbolic” don’t know Don Graham. And then:

Emotionally, we are reeling. To us, as to the city, the Grahams are the paper. Monday afternoon was the day our earth stood still.

My e-mail has been buzzing, my phone ringing, with family, friends, government officials, asking the same question: Are you okay? They don’t mean economically. They mean emotionally.

The answer: Not really. Because, at least for me, after three decades here, this is a moment at once hopeful and ineffably sad.

Pete Wehner writes says the Sophie’s Choice comparison is way, way over the top, and the rest of Marcus’s column reveals something about some journalists:

Ms. Marcus illustrates the melodrama and self-importance that some (certainly not all) journalists are afflicted with. They live in a make-believe world in which they fashion themselves as shining knights, truth tellers, exposers of corruption, defenders of the weak.

Now I happen to like the Post as a newspaper. I’m one of the shrinking number of people in the D.C. area who still subscribe to it. I admire some of its reporters. And they are home to some outstanding columnists. But it is hardly a sacred, flawless, and fearless institution.

Remember me telling you that many journalists see their roles as being a kind of priesthood? This is what I’m talking about. She’s reacting as would a high-church Anglican priest if Joel Osteen were named Archbishop of Canterbury.

It’s one thing to take your vocation seriously. It’s another to publicly declare that the beloved owner’s decision to sell has the emotional import of sending one’s child to the gas chamber, and then to gas on about how emotionally bereft you are. “The day the earth stood still”? I don’t begrudge Ruth Marcus her grief, but come on, have some perspective, please. Don Graham is not Brueghel’s Icarus.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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