Post Staff Fear Loss of Quality in Paper's Transition

By Andrew Alexander
Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Post was losing money. The staff was depleted. The competition was fierce. The economy was a shambles, and the paper needed radical change to survive.

That was the situation in 1933 when Eugene Meyer purchased The Post at a bankruptcy sale and began nursing it back to health.

The circumstances are similar today, as is the challenge. Once again, The Post is at a crossroads. With Meyer's heirs in control, it's entering the most critical phase of a broad transformation, underway for several years, that may determine if it survives and thrives.

The pace of change is breathtaking. A brain drain continues this month with the fourth round of staff buyouts since 2003. The Web site, housed in Northern Virginia, will soon be integrated into The Post's downtown newsroom to provide a unified 24-hour operation. A far-reaching reorganization of the newsroom staff will alter the way coverage is planned and content is processed.

But what will it mean for readers?

I posed that question to dozens in the newsroom, from top editors to rookie reporters, asking them to be candid in return for confidentiality. Of the 27 who responded, almost all said quality will suffer, at least in the short term.

Their predictions:

-- Reduced quality control.

An editor expressed fears of "an overall loss of polish and professionalism." Readers "have come to expect a certain standard, and it's going to decline in hundreds of small ways," said another. "You'll see more minor factual mistakes, more grammar errors." Added a veteran reporter: "With fewer editors, there is a greater chance things will slip into the paper."

-- Less watchdog reporting.

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