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WaPo Loses 17-Year Veteran of the Paper: ‘I’m Exhausted.’

WaPo is losing tech columnist Rob Pegoraro.

In a lengthy letter entitled “Departure” that he posted on his website, he explains why. The gist, he says, is that management no longer thinks what he does is part of their “core mission.” He thinks it’s a blessing in disguise. “In two words, I’m exhausted,” he writes. He says he has a house to babyproof, a garden to tend to and a kitchen to use. “I won’t mind stepping off the treadmill for a bit to focus on things that don’t involve gigabytes, kilobits or megapixels.”

See the full letter — it’s worth the read…

After more than 17 years, I’m leaving the Washington Post.

No, that’s not an easy sentence to write.

The proximate cause is management deciding that the sort of review and analysis of technology that I’ve been doing for most of those 17 years is no longer part of the Post’s core mission. As I understand it, the paper places a high priority on covering Washington the city (as in, local news and sports) and Washington the story (politics), but other topics may not be assured of column inches or server space.

As a journalist in a newsroom, you own the quality of your work but not your spot in the paper or on the Web site. Beat, column and blog assignments change. Sometimes your editors offer you another position–my colleague Patricia Sullivan arrived here to edit technology coverage but moved on to become a talented obituary writer. And sometimes they offer you an exit.

I could try to expand on the reasoning behind the paper’s decision, but I’ve never pretended to be a spokesman for management and won’t start now. Trust me on this, though: My critiques of the Post–such as those of its iPhone and iPad apps or its advertising policies–had zero bearing on my departure.

Instead, let me explain why this isn’t a bad time for me to log out and investigate the next thing, and why I’ve been pondering that move for a while.

First, in two words, I’m exhausted. I wrote more than 2,000 words on Monday alone, and I’ve easily exceeded that figure on many days over the last few years. My longest time off since starting here in 1993 was three weeks of paternity leave last year, which you should recognize as being a long way from vacation. The newsroom’s new editing system, as noted by our ombudsman in late March, has only compounded the fatigue factor.

Second, there’s this life outside the office that I’d like to reacquaint myself with, however briefly. As I write this, my daughter is about ready to crawl even as our house remains un-babyproofed. Spring is arriving and I have a (small) lawn and garden ready for my attention. The kitchen has a stack of recipes overdue for me to try, while the rest of the house hides a long list of deferred-maintenance chores. I won’t mind stepping off the treadmill for a bit to focus on things that don’t involve gigabytes, kilobits or megapixels.

Third, the journalism market is seeing some changes. The Post’s union kept some eminently fair severance provisions in our contract, and they should give me time to consider opportunities that didn’t exist a year or two ago.

In the meantime, I’ll use this space to write about my exit and my next steps. My Post e-mail address should work through the end of the month, and you can also reach me at rob@robpegoraro.com.

Thanks for reading. See you on the other side of my next byline…

- R

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