Former Washington Post journalist says Chen called looking for him

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Activist Chen Guangcheng called The Washington Post  last week because of a 2005 article by Philip Pan, says the author. Pan’s article introduced Chen’s campaign against forced abortions and sterilizations in rural China to Western audiences. Pan now works for The New York Times, where he writes about his guilt over how that article got Chen arrested, leading to the detention he just escaped. Pan says the call to the Post after Chen decided to leave the American Embassy in Beijing, where he’d taken shelter, was a result of Chen not keeping up with media news: “While en route in an embassy car, he borrowed a cellphone and called The Washington Post, apparently in an attempt to reach me and explain his choice.”

In an audio clip, Keith Richburg, the Beijing-based Washington Post reporter whom Chen reached, discusses the phone call, which technically came from the American ambassador, Gary Locke, who passed the phone to Chen.

A completely different kind of high-level summit was hosted by another former Washington Post employee, Lucia Moses reports: Washington Post Company president and general manager Stephen P. Hills met with a group of Post reporters at Bradley Graham’s house. Graham used to be a reporter at the Post and now owns Politics & Prose, an important independent bookstore in Washington. As an article in the Post describing Graham’s purchase of the bookstore notes, he “is a graduate of Yale and Stanford Business School and comes from a family that made its money in the ice cream cone and plastics industries.”

The group munched on sandwiches and talked about the decline of the paper’s investigative unit. In other words, this luncheon afforded the people involved an opportunity to do what every luncheon with a Washington Post staffer, past or present, involves — wring hands about the supposedly diminished state of the paper. The only shadow over this otherwise routine occurrence is Hills’ presence — he’s the exec with whom Brauchli had a “heated exchange” about staffing and Web traffic, Sarah Ellison reported in Vanity Fair:

In a tense meeting during this time, according to several people present, Stephen Hills, who is the president of the Post Media Group and Katharine’s deputy, suggested that the newsroom was bloated, and advanced the view that the Web site should be able to attract more traffic, citing the example of the Huffington Post, which largely aggregates coverage from other sites. Brauchli appeared livid, and the two had a heated exchange. News of the argument spread through the newsroom.

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