The news industry, sadly, has plenty of people with ideas but very few who have any idea how to implement them. They need someone who can understand and influence the logistics...I would not be surprised if a large part of why innovation is stifled by something as mundane as a poorly-implemented CMS.
I do see the potential for cmdrtaco to have minimal impact, through no fault of his own. Something as mundane as office politics (I'm assuming editor-at-large is a position outside of the chain of command) also stifles innovation.
But the fact that they've setup an internal division to explore the changes in technology and their impact on publishing is a solid positive indicator.
That said, large models are slow to shift, and there's plenty of examples of boneheaded executives within all media clinging helplessly to the titanic.
Hopefully the leaders at WaPo are genuinely interested in the lifeboat that cmdrtaco is sure to provide.
Walmart Labs: http://www.walmartlabs.com/
New York Times Labs: http://nytlabs.com/
Google has its so-called X Lab: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_X_Lab
Xerox PARC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerox_PARC
If you want to read a great page-turner history of PARC, check out Michael Hiltzik's book: Dealers of Lightning. One of his conclusions is that the laser printer alone paid for PARC several times over.