So Long, And Thanks for All the E-mails

By Terry M. Neal staff writer
Wednesday, December 14, 2005; 9:48 AM

When I told my friends and associates three and a half years ago that I was going to take a job writing a political column for, I mostly got blank looks.

"You mean, you're not going to be in the newspaper?" was the common question. "Nope," I said. "Just the Web site."

In this rapidly changing media environment of ours, three and a half years might as well be a lifetime. I'm now headed back to a the newspaper to become the Maryland local government and politics editor for the Metro desk.

As I've told people my new plans, and how thrilled I am to be returning to my first professional love -- newspapers -- the common sentiment among friends and associates has been suprise -- "Really, why would you want to go back to the newspaper side? You've got a great job. The Web is the future."


The last few years has seen an explosion of the blogosphere, which has increasingly asserted its influence. At the same time, mainstream news publications such as The Washington Post have responded with more original online content, with their Web sites becoming the repositories for innovation and creativity.

And newspaper Web sites are becoming increasingly important to the journalistic bottom line. No less an authority than the guy who signs my paychecks -- Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald Graham -- has said so.

Washingtonian's online "Washington Buzz" column quoted Graham telling a group of investment analysts in New York recently that the "Web site simply has to come through, ours and that of other newspapers, for us to be successful."

Since I took over in July 2002 from Charles Babington, the first reporter to hold's "chief political correspondent" title, this site has continued to add original voices and content and improve in quality. Dan Froomkin writes a popular column about the White House, Jeff Morley a round-up of world opinion and the recently hired Chris Cillizza writes about national politics.

They, along with The Post's Howard Kurtz, write blogs -- a format that does well on newspaper Web sites, but which I have had little interest in adopting for myself. My column, Talking Points, was written in a bit more of a traditional newspaper column style, usually once or twice a week, rather than four or five times a week.

In some ways, I remained a traditionalist, which is why I look forward to returning to the newspaper.

Despite the changing media environment and predictions of doom, newspapers aren't going to be dead anytime soon. Most mainstream media news sites continue to get the vast majority of their content from newspapers.

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