Post to Move Its Print-Edition Business Coverage Into The A Section

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Washington Post, taking another step toward trimming the size of its newspaper, is folding its stand-alone Business section into the A section six days a week and drastically reducing the publication of stock tables.

Bringing financial news inside the A section will reduce the newspaper from five to four sections Monday through Saturday, not counting weekly feature sections such as Health, Food and Home. Business will remain a separate section on Sunday. The changes take effect March 30.

"From a reader-experience point of view, having business and economic news in the A section -- overlapping with national, international, political and policy news -- makes a great deal of sense," Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said yesterday in an interview. But he did not dispute the fact that the loss of a section would mean less prominence for many business stories.

This is the latest belt-tightening move by The Post, which has been shrinking its print product and its staff numbers, like most newspapers across the country. Earlier, The Post eliminated the Sunday Source and Book World sections and combined the Sunday Arts and Style sections.

"Our business staff has done tremendous work during the economic crisis of the last six months," Brauchli said. "Much of their work appears on the front page in any case. This will permit us to organize our coverage better and at the same time run a leaner paper that will serve our readers well."

In place of the weekly Washington Business section on Mondays, Brauchli plans a daily half-page of stories devoted to local business matters. He said the change would allow for more consistent coverage. Columnists such as Steven Pearlstein and Joe Davidson will be moved, with Davidson's Federal Diary shifting to the Fed Page.

The changes will save The Post money on newsprint costs, Brauchli said, but will not affect the space devoted to national and foreign news in the A section.

The stock tables, which now comprise nearly three pages, will be cut to a daily half-page of analysis of markets around the world.

The Post will also cut its television listings in the Style section to cover only programming from 7 p.m. to midnight.

"What we're doing is eliminating things that readers can easily get elsewhere, where we don't necessarily bring value," Brauchli said.

Sandra Sugawara, assistant managing editor for business news, called the decision "a reality" at a time when few newspapers still publish full pages of agate type on stock prices. She said the migration to the A section would help "brand" her staff's coverage as being "at the intersection of business and government," and was better than being packaged inside the Sports section, as has often happened in the past on days when the stock markets were closed.

"Some people will be disappointed," Sugawara said. "But given the various options, this is a good option for us."

Putting the best face on the cost-cutting move, Brauchli said, "Having a stand-alone section offers many advantages, but having a strong, well-integrated A section makes a lot of sense for the paper, too."

Many big-city dailies have consolidated sections in recent months, as declining advertising revenue has badly hurt their bottom line. The New York Times, for instance, folded its Metro section into the main news section.

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