MediaFile

Big changes at The Washington Post

April 16, 2009

You could read the whole memo about changes at The Washington Post at Romenesko, or you could read the important parts more quickly here.

The bottom line, courtesy of the memo sent to employees on Thursday from Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and his top deputies, Liz Spayd and Raju Narisetti: Get stories out more quickly. Don’t worry about how you do it — on paper, a Blackberry or whatever. Just get it out there. And don’t slack on the writing and editing, please.

Excerpts from the memo:

Today, we are beginning a reorganization to create new reporting groups, streamline editing desks and anticipate the impending integration of our print and digital news operations. …  [W]e want to simplify the handling of words, pages, images and new media, building on the prescient move to “two-touch” editing under Len and Phil. Decisions about space and play must happen faster, both in print and online, and in a way that pulls together our now-separate newsrooms. A single editor ultimately ought to be able to oversee all versions of a story, whether it appears in print, online or on a BlackBerry or iPhone. Space in the newspaper and editing firepower in general should be allocated based on a day’s news priorities, not a predetermined formula.

These changes will alter the way we do things, but they will not affect the commitment to journalistic depth, authority and excellence that has defined The Post. Just the reverse: We think these steps will help us to adapt more easily to the economic and technological challenges that face us, while preserving the best of our traditions and values. …

The Post also will:

  • Group most reporters under a national editor and a local editor
  • Start a “universal news desk” to edit copy, regardless of format. (It will handle online and print roles, which likely won’t make all the online people so happy as they worry about where their jobs will go.)
  • Group other reporters into different teams to pursue stories in a more organized way than now.
  • Rethink aspects of the paper’s design (Sounds like a big project, but it’s hazy for now.)
  • “Meld” the digital newsroom (now in Arlington, Va.) with the print newsroom later this year.

The changes (which include a bunch of promotions and lateral moves of people whose names I know, but likely don’t matter to you) look like they accomplish two purposes:

  • Reimagine how a newspaper newsroom ought to be run as the staff starts to think about how life will be after the printed paper goes away
  • Cut costs. Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth, as we’ve reported before, owes her uncle, Washington Post Chairman Donald Graham, a plan to put the paper back in the black.

It will be interesting to see how they tackle these challenges while buying out employees. Maybe the transplants from washingtonpost.com’s newsroom will be more necessary than they realize. Now the question is whether they will want to unionize like their print colleagues. It’s always about the money, isn’t it?

(Photo: Reuters. Washington Post White House reporter Michael Fletcher (l), Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli (c), U.S. President Barack Obama (R))

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