The Two Washington Posts

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By Deborah Howell
Sunday, December 11, 2005

As far as most readers are concerned, washingtonpost.com is The Washington Post. But it's not, really. They are quite different, though the content is much the same and the Web site delivers Post content 24 hours a day.

The Post is primarily a local newspaper, no matter how or where it's read. Its circulation, as reported in September, is 671,322 daily and 965,920 Sunday. The Web site's reach is huge -- 8 million unique visitors a month, about 1.3 million of them local.

While local readers use washingtonpost.com more often and more intensely, the site also has a national and international audience. I'm repeatedly surprised when, reading an e-mail that is very knowledgeable about The Post, I scroll down and find out it's from a reader in New Mexico or Oregon -- or China, Israel or Australia.

Those readers -- who often say they "subscribe" because they register for online access -- think The Post is their newspaper no matter where they live. And if they have a complaint, it often comes to me.

The Post Web site is owned by the Washington Post Co., but it is not run by the newspaper. It is a separate company called Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive, or WPNI, with offices in Arlington.

Yes, The Post provides the vast majority of the Web site's content. But the Web site has its own staff of 65 editorial employees and its own features, such as Brian Krebs on cybersecurity, William M. Arkin on national security and the military, and Jefferson Morley on what the rest of the world is saying about the United States.

The site also has Web-only multimedia reports and blogs written by Post reporters, such as Howard Kurtz on the media, Mark Maske on the National Football League, Fred Barbash on Supreme Court vacancies and Joel Achenbach on just about anything.

Caroline H. Little, WPNI's chief executive and publisher, said the site is trying to offer more tools and interactive features. "We just launched a political database four days ago, and already a whole list of blogs is linking to it."

There are cultural differences between the two newsrooms, which could be expected between a traditional newspaper and the more free-wheeling Web site. But Jim Brady, executive editor of the Web site, said he finds the Post newsroom "incredibly cooperative."

The two Posts interact every day. Post reporters and editors often participate in online chats (about 50 hours a week) and there is a Continuous News Desk at The Post in charge of feeding the Web site.

Political reporters at The Post don't like WPNI columnist Dan Froomkin's "White House Briefing," which is highly opinionated and liberal. They're afraid that some readers think that Froomkin is a Post White House reporter.

John Harris, national political editor at the print Post, said, "The title invites confusion. It dilutes our only asset -- our credibility" as objective news reporters. Froomkin writes the kind of column "that we would never allow a White House reporter to write. I wish it could be done with a different title and display."


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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