MediaFile

Layoffs hit The Washington Post after BusinessWeek, AP

Several media reporters wrote on Twitter on Thursday that this was one of the worst weeks in journalism, and it’s hard to argue with them. BusinessWeek is canning a third of its staff as Bloomberg gets ready to buy the magazine. The Associated Press is laying off 90 people as part of its effort to cut payroll costs by 10 percent this year.

And now The Washington Post is laying off staff, sources told me on Friday, and a spokeswoman confirmed.

The Post has cut an unknown number of washingtonpost.com workers, the website folks who until now have worked separately at the dot-com headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, across the river from the Post’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. One source told me up to 10 are going. That’s not as big a number as other places you’ve read about lately, but it’s still a painful cut. (Disclosure: I worked for The Washington Post Co. from 1998 to 2005)

Sources shared several names with me, but until those people confirm that they were laid off, I don’t want to publish them. What I can say is that there were several journalists and marketing people among the casualties. They are getting severance packages, but they are accompanied by non-disclosure agreements which prevent them from discussing their firings. Apparently, some of my sources said, they will be out of work by Dec. 31.

Why is this happening? Here’s what spokeswoman Kris Coratti said:

As part of the work we’re doing to turn around the business that supports our journalism, there were a small number of individual positions eliminated as a result of efficiencies we have found through our new structure and through new technology, and those have taken place in both print and online.

Big changes at The Washington Post

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.

Read The Washington Post’s buyout memo

The Washington Post is offering new buyouts to help the money-losing paper cut costs as it pursues a plan to become profitable again. You can read our story about it, along with an interview with Publisher Katharine Weymouth. Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from her memo to Post employees:

I need not tell you that our industry is undergoing a seismic shift as readers face an array of media choices and our traditional advertising and circulation bases decline. The good news is that the appetite for news is as robust as ever. Thanks to our presence on the Internet and on mobile phones and other devices, our audience includes more readers now than we have ever had. But while online revenues have been growing, they have not yet grown fast enough to offset the declines we are seeing in print revenues. As we move forward, our path is pretty straightforward: we will have to reduce our cost structure…

Below are some of the specifics on the VRIP that we plan to offer certain exempt employees in the next few weeks. We also plan to offer a similar VRIP to certain Guild-covered employees. Post representatives will be discussing the proposed VRIP with the Guild in a few weeks, consistent with the terms of the labor contract. While this VRIP is similar in some ways to the programs we have offered in the past, it will not be as generous as some of those prior buyouts.

Read Washington Post chairman’s letter to shareholders

Washington Post Co Chairman Don Graham wrote a more than 2,000-word letter to shareholders for his company’s latest annual report. I managed to cut it down to the 587 words that I thought were really worth reading. Graham is the kind of chairman and CEO that you want to cover as a journalist because he seems to rely exclusively on straight talk instead of obfuscation — particularly when the news is bad for the company and for shareholders. Here are the 587 words, with the parts that I found even more interesting than the rest marked in bold type.

We could do without more years like 2008. … In past years, I have rattled on in these letters about our Company’s relationship to our shareholders. Generations of top managers at The Post Company have reiterated: we’re focused on the long run; we’re committed to building value for our shareholders. My own assets are more than 90% concentrated in the stock you own. All of these remain true, but I am in the embarrassing position of writing you after a year in which Post Company stock declined by more than 50%. Comparative results (“you should see what happened to the other newspapers”) offer no solace.

It’s central that you know this: in 1998, about 75% of the Company’s revenue came from The Post, Newsweek and our television stations. In 2008, almost 70% came from Kaplan and Cable ONE.

washingtonpost.com gets ready to move

It looks like the wheels are in motion for the eventual transplant of washingtonpost.com’s employees from their enclave in Virginia to the mothership at 1150 15th St, NW, Washington, D.C. An alert tipster spotted this advertisement on Page D4 of the Monday edition of The Washington Post (that would be the Business section, soon to be eliminated):

1515 North Courthouse Rd, Arlington, VA

84,000 square feet of sublease space available

Arlington VA @ Courthouse Metro

Top four floor of the building avail

12th floor: 21,177 SF

11th floor 21,177 SFf

10th floor: 6,900-to-21,324 SF

9th floor: 21,324 SF

Great views, furniture available, Cls to restaurants, hotels & shops, Fitness Center with locker room in the building, Computer room with raised floor, Parking.

Then there is contact information for two agents at Summit Commercial Real Estate

Washington Post takes care of Business

The press release says that The Washington Post is expanding its “A” section. This is true. It also is eliminating its business section on a standalone basis, except for a more enhanced version that will run on Sundays. Our story has just hit the wire. Read the memo here:

Beginning March 30, we will make several changes in The Post’s presentation of business news and some Style-section features.

Our business coverage will shift into the main news package in the A Section Monday through Saturday. We will have a new business and economics display page inside the section, designed to signal to readers the centrality of economic news, as well as the increasing overlap of political and economic events, in today’s world. The expanded A Section will allow us to make better decisions about story play and length, and to run a leaner, better-organized newspaper.

How much are those front-page Times ads?

Don’t ask The New York Times how much its new front-page display ads cost. The paper won’t say. That didn’t stop the New York Post from asking ad buyers. Here’s the answer based on anonymous sources:

$75,000 on weekdays and $100,000 on Sundays.

Assuming that the Post counts Saturday as a weekday, and assuming no discounts or other special deals (and assuming this blog post is not written by a reporter who nearly failed at least one high school math class), this works out to $28.6 million a year: $23.4 million for 52 weeks of Monday through Saturday and $5.2 million for a year’s worth of Sundays.

Despite the TImes’s silence, the ad cost sounds about right. The Wall Street Journal charges $90,000 for its front-page ads, not counting special discounts. Other details sound similar too. Here’s the Post:

Obama: Good for newspapers — today

NEW YORK – In the same way that the Philadelphia Phillies’ World Series win boosted Inquirer and Daily News sales last week, U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama is jumping in to help papers across the country survive.

People across the country flocked to convenience stores and newsstands snatch up copies of their local papers, which ultimately will prove the most enduring mementos commemorating the election of the first black president of the United States. It’s not a long-term game changer, considering that you can’t hold an historic presidential election every day, but it’s a nice sweetener for a bitter industry story.

Here’s just one example of how the day is shaping up: The New York Times is printing an extra 50,000 copies of today’s paper for the local market after completely selling out, according to spokeswoman Catherine Mathis. (See the Romenesko journalism blog for more details about heavy press runs at other U.S. newspapers.)

Brauchli’s unfinished News Corp business

Marcus Brauchli could have looked forward to a pleasant summer vacation before digging into his new job in September as The Washington Post’s new executive editor, but instead he will punch the clock like the rest of us.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, the former Wall Street Journal managing editor said he plans to wrap up his consulting work with News Corp on a project in Asia. We don’t know the details, but it was part of an agreement tied to his resignation from the Journal after News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch let him know that his services at the paper would no longer be needed.

“It’s very interesting and productive,” was all Brauchli would say about it.