Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi was on vacation in the Dominican Republic last Thursday when his boss phoned. "I need you to write a story," Farhi remembers Executive Editor Marty Baron saying. "There's something happening here and I can't tell you about it."
Baron wouldn't spill, "which of course drives me crazy," Farhi said. He returned to the D.C. area Friday and spent the next days "coming up with scenarios" that could merit such an ominous call: The least likely, he figured, was a sale of The Washington Post.
Sunday morning, Baron called Farhi at his home, cluing him in to "the kind of holy shit story that it turned out to be today," Farhi said by phone. The company would announce Monday that Amazon owner Jeff Bezos would buy The Washington Post
. "He swore me to secrecy."
Farhi interviewed Publisher Katharine Weymouth Sunday and began writing the story in a Word document, keeping it out of the Post's content management system. He emailed Baron an initial draft Sunday night with spaces for interviews he'd yet to conduct with Washington Post Co. chief executive Don Graham and Jeff Bezos.
Farhi did those interviews early Monday afternoon, then filed the piece at 1:30 p.m., Baron writes in an email to Poynter. Farhi, unable to talk about his huge story with any of his colleagues, began to "walk around the newsroom," he said, feeling a bit like he was in a dream where he knew some major event was coming -- "oh, by the way, did you know the Germans are going to invade Poland," he said by way of an example -- but was unable to share the information.
He then, he said, freaked out he might get scooped. "I lived in absolute fear that this can't hold and it won't hold," he said.