Through much of the turmoil the paper continued to undertake noteworthy journalism and dramatically increase its online audience, but inside the company, there have been long-standing questions: Who is the target audience — and is it local or national? Or both? Should The Post have cultivated more of a national identity online? Should the paper have started Politico in-house? Should it have asked online readers to pay earlier? Should it have devoted more effort to becoming a technology as well as media company? And how big a newsroom does The Post need?
But few people have any confidence that different choices would have led to a different outcome. “I think it was inevitable,” Jack Shafer, the media critic for Reuters, said of the financial crisis at big-city dailies, noting the big write-off Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. declared not long after buying the Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones and Co. and that the New York Times’s stock lost three-quarters of its value over the past decade. “They all did different things, and they’re all in the same boat today. I don’t think Don or anyone else should beat themselves up. Show me the paper that got it right.”