The Washington City Paper’s Erik Wemple has an excellent piece about the Washington Post/washingtonpost.com divide, including lots of good cat-fighty stories. For those who can’t read all 6,500 words, here’s some nuggets (after the jump…):
One problem, though: Priest’s report was on NBC Nightly News, not on the paper’s multimedia pipe. Priest had a contract with NBC and occasionally collaborated with the network on her stories. Several weeks before the Walter Reed package was slated to run in the Post, she approached her NBC producer about the project.
How much notice did she give washingtonpost.com? “Anne and I basically didn’t tell them anything about the project until two days before it was going to run,” says Priest.
The entertaining part of the drama lies in the pronouns. Whether the griper works as a newsie or a techie, the finger-pointing always targets ‘those people,” “those folks,” and other, less polite, designations. When the topic is washingtonpost.com, “we” generally takes a breather.
Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. brushes off talk about calling in the movers. The two operations, he says, are working together more closely than ever, and there’s plenty of evidence behind the claim. Key newsroom editors have moved across the river to join washingtonpost.com; an estimated 15 percent of the activity in the Post newsroom goes to Web-only presentations; and Web producers are getting earlier and more complete involvement in print projects. The Post’s sports writers, too, have verily launched a downtown subsidiary of washingtonpost.com via extensive participation in blogs, chats, and videos.
The company line is that Don Graham, then the Post’s publisher, wanted the new online operation to innovate, to explore the vast Internet free from the retrograde tugs of a hidebound newsroom. “[He] believed, wisely, that this was a different medium, and this was an opportunity to create and take advantage of a new medium,” says Douglas Feaver, who ran the editorial side of washingtonpost.com from 1998 through early 2005.
It’s awfully convenient when a fancy organizational theory camouflages a cutthroat motivation for corporate behavior. And in this case, that would be union-busting. If Graham’s only goal was incubation, he could have placed the web people just around the corner from 15th and L.
Instead, he chose Virginia, a state with a right-to-work law and its attendant obstacles to union organizing. Remember–the Post is a company that earned its viability in part by crushing a 1975 strike by the pressmen’s union, a grueling affair that involved standard old-school union thuggery and a bunch of Post execs doing menial chores to keep the enterprise running. Management still does battle with the various unions that represent workers in the downtown office, including the newsroom guild.
Why go through the same thing with the Internet operation? “The guild was the only remotely plausible reason to keep the two apart,” says a Post source.
“The Web site has clearly decided that Celebritology is where it’s at,” observes Style writer Hank Stuever.
Other objections go to taste, or how Celebritology rarely does original reporting and links to tabloid-style sources that wouldn’t meet dead-tree standards.
“Romney Homes In on a Message That Will Stick”
By Michael D. Shear and Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer and washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Downie has quite an explanation for how this happens. First off, Cillizza is a washingtonpost.com employee, Downie says, and so the byline merely conveys the right information. Plus, leaving the “.com” in his byline accomplishes towering managerial imperatives. “[It's] also for the sake of psychic reward for the people who work at washingtonpost.com–to show them that it is valued in print in the Washington Post to be a washingtonpost.com person,” says Downie.