The Washington Post Company Goes Full Throttle In Our Nation's Capital: Serving Its Local Community And The Public

Monday, March 1, 2004 - 00:00

The Editor interviews Diana M. Daniels, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of The Washington Post Company.

Editor: What are the benefits of an in-house practice in Washington, DC?

Daniels:
Washington, DC is one of the best cities in the country to be practicing in-house at a company like The Washington Post Company. Our principal operations include our flag-ship daily newspaper, a number of smaller newspapers and Newsweek. We also operate six television broadcasting stations and cable television systems in the south and midwest. In addition to our online publishing division, we own Kaplan, Inc., which focuses on educational and career services and test preparation.

With our diversified businesses, we are constantly being challenged not only by business issues and the changing nature of media, but also by new rules and regulations which impact how our businesses develop and grow. The vibrant environment of Washington, DC helps us focus on these challenges by bringing together national and international decision-makers, policy setters, community activists and legal advocates.

Editor: I understand that The Washington Post Company has had a long-standing commitment to public service within the Washington, DC community. Please tell us about some of the outreach programs that The Washington Post Company supports.

Daniels:
The Washington Post Company has had a long-standing commitment to public service within the Washington, DC community and all the other communities throughout the country where we have businesses. Every division of The Washington Post Company sponsors a wide array of outreach initiatives that take advantage of the company's special resources to benefit local communities. For example, in Washington, DC, The Washington Post newspaper supports a Newspaper in the Classroom project that distributes more than 70,000 newspapers and instructional material every week to area schools. The Washington Post, Gazette Newspapers and Newsweek have formed partnerships with local schools where company employees serve as mentors and tutors.

The Washington Post also sponsors the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Awards, the Vincent E. Reed Principals Leadership Institute, and The Shakespeare Theatre Free For All, among many programs involving the Washington, DC community.

Each of our television stations plays an active role in its community through such initiatives as telethons for local organizations and causes, blood drives, cancer screenings and disaster relief efforts. Cable One provides free educational programming and cable hookups to schools in its systems. Kaplan offers free SAT preparation to economically disadvantaged students and Newsweek's Educational Program enables teachers to receive class sets of Newsweek, including instruction resources for social studies, economics or ESL programs, and a weekly teachers' guide and news quiz.

Editor: Your personal commitment to public service is evident in your contributions as Chair of the Appleseed Foundation. Please tell our readers about the Foundation's goals.

Daniels:
The Appleseed Foundation is committed to promoting genuine opportunities for everyone and providing equal access to the law. Through the various Appleseed Centers, we strive to reform the juvenile justice system, improve foster care, strengthen public education and protect low-income consumers. Harnessing the talents of big firm lawyers, in-house counsel, academics and other professionals, these centers work hard to implement systemic changes at the local level and that is where a real difference can be made in someone's life. Your readers can learn more about the centers by visiting the foundation's web site at www.appleseeds.net.

Editor: Do you encourage the members of your legal department to participate in pro bono work?

Daniels:
I do encourage members of the legal department to participate in pro bono work. Washington Post Company lawyers have been involved in pro bono activities by serving on the Board of Governors of the DC Bar, the Council for Court Excellence, the Appleseed Foundation and the ABA Museum of Law, as well as serving on the Advisory Board of Corporate Pro Bono.Org, the Advisory Committee on Procedures for the DC Circuit, the Steering Committee of Lawyers Have Heart, and participating in a number of Street Law projects, among other activities.

Editor: Do you look for law firms that support pro bono work?

Daniels:
I believe that pro bono is a way for lawyers to give back to their communities in a myriad of ways, whether it be on judicial selection reform, representation in landlord-tenant court, or ensuring quality education for children in foster care. In performing pro bono services, the lawyers are advancing their own vision of how this community can improve. That is why I encourage our legal department to participate in pro bono activities and why we expect virtually all of the large law firms that do work for The Washington Post Company to have extensive pro bono programs and to have committed substantial firm resources to supporting those programs.

Editor: Washington, DC is known for having some of the nation's top schools and attracting some of the best people from around the world. What can you tell us about the pool of legal talent in Washington, DC?

Daniels:
I dare say the pool of legal talent in Washington, DC is equal to or better than that found anywhere in the country. With a number of nationally-recognized law schools, as well as the quality of practice in Washington, which brings many very talented individuals to work in both government and private practice, I think Washington has a deep pool of terrific legal talent.

Editor: Please tell us about The Washington Post Company's commitment to a diverse workforce.

Daniels:
The Washington Post Company is committed to an enterprise-wide diverse workforce. From the pressroom to the executive floor of its various businesses, you will find women and people of color throughout, including in key management positions.

In promoting diversity in the workplace, the company has signed the "Diversity in The Workplace: A Statement of Principle" pledge, endorsed by the Association of Corporate Counsel, to work with law firms that are interested in and committed to maintaining workplace diversity. Among the company's 28 lawyers located in various divisions, there are three lawyers of African-American background, one of Hispanic background, two of Asian background and fourteen are women.

My own career is just one example of how The Washington Post Company's commitment to a diverse workforce is more than just words. After I earned my law degree from Harvard and my master's degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I started at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City working with high-profile clients on major financing deals. Recruited from Cravath by The Washington Post newspaper, I worked 11 months as assistant general counsel before being named the general counsel at its Newsweek subsidiary. Only 29 at the time, I worked hard to prove myself. Benefiting from the mentoring and other initiatives through which our company puts its diversity commitments into action, I was promoted in 1988 to my present position as The Washington Post Company's top legal officer.

Editor: When assessing the qualifications of outside law firms, do you take their diversity initiatives into consideration?

Daniels:
Virtually all of the large outside law firms that do work for The Washington Post Company are engaged in significant initiatives to improve diversity within the firm as well as the profession.

Editor: Are there any initiatives that you would like to highlight that are improving the justice system in Washington, DC?

Daniels:
The Council for Court Excellence has a number of outstanding initiatives for improving the administration of justice in the local and federal courts and related agencies in Washington, DC and in the nation. In 2001 the Council set four primary areas, which they have pledged to address by 2006: (1) the issues that affect children in the justice system; (2) the efficacy of the justice system; (3) sentencing guidelines and (4) jury reforms. Your readers can learn more about the Council by visiting its web site at www.courtexcellence.org.

Editor: How would you rate Washington, DC as a forum for conducting ADR or mediation?

Daniels:
I think Washington, DC is a good forum for conducting mediation. The courts have embraced the concept and are encouraging parties to settle commercial disputes through ADR or mediation. Jean Baker of the American Arbitration Association serves with the judges, litigators from law firms and corporate legal departments on the 2003-2004 Board of Directors of the Council for Court Excellence. Their service reflects a shared commitment in the Washington, DC legal community to promoting justice in all forums available for resolving disputes.