Post to close national bureaus, send reporters afield from D.C.

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Washington Post, in a significant retrenchment, is closing its remaining U.S. bureaus outside the capital area.

The six correspondents who work in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will be offered assignments in Washington, while three news assistants will be let go.

The money-saving moves, coming on the heels of four rounds of early-retirement buyouts and the closing or merging of several sections, are the clearest sign yet of the newspaper's shrinking horizons in an era of diminished resources.

"The fact is, we can effectively cover the rest of the country from Washington," Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli said Tuesday from New York, where he was delivering the news in person to the Post bureau there. "We have for years been able to cover issues around the country for our readers with a corps of traveling reporters. It's more possible than it's ever been to cover the issues that matter to our readers from a Washington perspective."

What is lost, however, is the knowledge and experience accumulated by reporters who live in other regions of the country and come to understand the local issues, personalities and culture.

Brauchli, a former foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, acknowledged that "unquestionably there are advantages to having someone on the ground at times." But, he said, "we are not a national news organization of record serving a general audience. Nor are we a wire service or cable channel." Maintaining that The Post's strength is to view issues through a "Washington prism," Brauchli cited recent examples of education and financial reporters filing dispatches from other cities to illustrate national trends.

Brauchli is under pressure to cut costs because The Washington Post Co.'s newspaper division, which includes several smaller papers, lost $166.7 million in the first three quarters of this year.

The journalists being offered reassignment are Keith B. Richburg, Barton Gellman and Tomoeh Murakami Tse in New York; Peter Slevin in Chicago; and Karl Vick and television columnist Lisa de Moraes in Los Angeles. Over the past decade, The Post has shuttered bureaus it once maintained in Austin, Denver and Miami.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company