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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 04:57 PM ET, 07/20/2012

Are news bureaus good for breaking news?


James Holmes, 24, is seen in this undated handout picture released by the University of Colorado July 20, 2012. Holmes is the suspect in a shooting spree that killed 12 people at a midnight premiere of the new Batman movie in a suburb of Denver early on Friday, according to law enforcement officials. (HANDOUT - REUTERS)
In November 2009, the Washington Post announced that it was closing its remaining domestic bureaus in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Howard Kurtz, The Post’s media reporter at the time, noted in a news story that the move represented a “significant retrenchment” and “shrinking horizons in an era of diminished resources.”

The official line from Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli drew furrowed brows from folks in The Post newsroom:

“The fact is we can effectively cover the rest of the country from Washington,” Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said Tuesday from New York, where he was delivering the news in person to the Post bureau there. “We have for years been able to cover issues around the country for our readers with a corps of traveling reporters. It’s more possible than it’s ever been to cover the issues that matter to our readers from a Washington perspective.”

What a moment to test Brauchli’s argument. At about 12:30 a.m. MT on Friday, a gunman killed 12 and injured scores of people at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Like many other papers around the country, The Post hustled to put together a comprehensive report using official sources, the phone and an aggregation of news reports from Denver-area outlets. In the same stroke, the paper reached out to staffers who happened to be traveling in the region — reporter David Fahrenthold was in Reno and reporter Eli Saslow was in Montana, according to National Editor Kevin Merida. Both have been redirected to Colorado (Saslow was headed there anyhow). The Post has also made arrangements with three Colorado journalists — Sandra Fish, Jeff Kass and Stephen Singular — to pursue the story.

The bureau-tific New York Times does keep a permanent presence in Denver, primarily through Denver Bureau Chief Jack Healy. At the time of the Aurora shootings, though, the Denver guy was in Montana, working on a story, according to New York Times National Editor Sam Sifton. He’s now headed toward the action, says Sifton.

Healy’s job is not to sit in front of a computer screen in Denver and wait for national news to break in his vicinity. Recent Healy bylines show coverage of wildfires in Colorado, heat in Kansas, politics in Utah, and a dissent over gay marriage among Mormons. “We’re lucky because we have a Denver bureau,” says Sifton. “That doesn’t necessarily mean the Denver correspondent is there. The important thing is that we’re set to deploy,” he continues, sounding a bit like Brauchli.

By  |  04:57 PM ET, 07/20/2012

 
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