Len Downie

Leonard Downie Jr. has been executive editor of The Washington Post since 1991.  Downie joined the Post as a summer intern in 1964 and soon became an investigative reporter, specializing in crime, courts, housing fraud and urban affairs.  His 1966 investigative series on the malfunctioning local court system in Washington, D.C. was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and helped lead to the system’s abolition and replacement by the D. C. Superior Court of today.  All told, Downie worked on the newspaper’s metropolitan news staff for 15 years, and ran that staff as assistant managing editor for metropolitan news from 1974 until 1979.  Earlier, as deputy metropolitan editor, he helped supervise The Post’s Watergate coverage.

Downie’s first three books grew out of his newspaper journalism during those years:  Justice Denied (Praeger, 1971) about poorly functioning city courts across the country,  Mortgage on America (Praeger, 1974) about the impact and costs of urban real estate speculation,  and The New Muckrakers (New Republic Books, 1976) about investigative reporters like Woodward and Bernstein.  He also was a major contributor to the book, Ten Blocks From the White House: Anatomy of the Washington Riots of 1968 (Praeger, 1968).

Downie was The Post’s London correspondent from early 1979 until mid-1982, covering the rise of Margaret Thatcher, the troubles in Northern Ireland, the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and the Falklands War.  He returned to Washington as National Editor in 1982 and became managing editor of The Post in 1984.  He succeeded Ben Bradlee as executive editor in September, 1981.

During his more than four decades in journalism at The Washington Post,  Downie has investigated public officials, interviewed numerous presidents and prime ministers, supervised the coverage of 13 U. S. presidential and congressional elections and dealt with countless politicians, government investigators and intelligence officials.  As an editor, he has often made decisions about publishing stories about both personal scandals of public figures and matters of national security.   

During Downie’s 17 years as executive editor, The Post news staff won 25 Pulitzer Prizes, including three Pulitzer gold medals for public service.

Born May 1, 1942 in Cleveland, Ohio, Downie grew up there and decided to become a journalist at the age of eleven. He edited student newspapers in grammar, junior high and high school. He received BA and MA degrees in journalism and political science from The Ohio State University.  He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Ohio State in 1993.

Most recently, Downie was the author, with Robert G. Kaiser, of The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril (Knopf, 2002) about the current crisis in the American news media, which won the Goldsmith Award from the Joan Shorenstein Center at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Len Downie and his wife, Janice, live in Washington.  They have a blended family of six grown children: four sons and two daughters.

The Rules of the Game is his first novel.