Washington 'Post' Case Study In Doing It Wrong

Alt-weekly crusader and Washington City Paper editor Erik Wemple wrote the definitive story on the battle between traditional newsrooms and their web counterparts, where "definitive" means "extraordinarily long and often forgetting to make a larger point in its various attempts to embarrass the Washington Post." It's still entertaining though, as a case study in precisely how, over and over again, one should not roll out and maintain the web side of a major publication.

While the Post works out of historic downtown DC, washingtonpost.com is out in the suburbs of union-unfriendly Virginia (no Guild fights out here!), a 15 minute drive in fantastic traffic. Also newspaper and web counterparts at various analogous positions hate each other, certain sections of the paper are buried in the website in favor of promotion of washingtonpost.com-employed substitutes, and the many old people of the paper have no clue what to do about nasty anonymous comments. Its the problems of every newspaper website magnified tenfold, and played out in the relative public of meta-media criticism.

From our time in DC, we're well aware of tensions between the paper and the web. The whole enterprise is astoundingly wasteful, unfair to web-only reporters who don't get real bylines in the paper and print people whose work is hidden on the site beneath web-exclusive content. But the Post has ended up as a web-friendly publication, beating the Times to the blog revolution and often quite effectively engaging in online political conversation, all while the stodgy paper itself loses ad revenue, circulation, and income.

(And concurrent to trend-ish anecdotes like the web's burying of sections like Style has been the Post's inexcusable dumbing down of that once-respected section into typical USA Today lifestyle bullshit, though maybe that's neither here nor there.)

(Also neither here nor there: City Paper editor Erik Wemple is known, fairly or not, for hating blogs, bloggers, and the internet as a whole.)

(The City Paper story also features a sped-up video of editor Wemple pretending to be a Post employee driving from the paper's office to the web office. With acting and everything! It's like Grand Theft Auto: Vendetta-Based Media Crit.)

One Mission, Two Newsrooms [City Paper]