Ask the Post: Executive Editor Takes Your Questions

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Marcus Brauchli
Washington Post Executive Editor
Monday, June 15, 2009; 11:00 AM

The Washington Post's executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, was online Monday, June 15 at 11 a.m. ET to take questions about both the newspaper and Web site. He will also address questions about the current state of the news industry.

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Marcus Brauchli: Good morning. Sorry to be a bit late. We'll get right to questions.

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Washington, D.C.: There is traditionally a firewall between the news and opinion divisions. Could you explain where a blog like Ezra Klein's sits?

A number of his recent interviews seem coordinated with the news division (both Ceci and Ezra with interviews of the same people on the same day), but he's certainly 80% opinion, blended with 20% news. How does this emerging news medium fit into the operations at Wash Post?

Marcus Brauchli: Thanks for the question. The line between news and opinion indeed has been blurring, although we continue to believe in that fundamental separation.

Traditionally, the editorial pages (run at The Post by Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt) are the domain of opinion. The news pages are meant to be largely free of opinion, at least partisan opinion.

Even before the advent of the Internet, newspapers published analysis pieces on the news pages, in which reporters--usually senior journalists--put the news into context, often by trying to explain in more depth why something happened or what might happen next. Foreign correspondents often gave more perspective than domestic reporters, because they couldn't assume a base of knowledge about many of the places or issues they were writing about. And big newspapers like The Post often had Sunday sections that specialized in analysis; ours is the Outlook section, which relies on outside and sometimes inside writers to bring perspective or personal experience to the news. We also introduced news columnists--Dana Milbank's Sketch column, Dan Balz's The Take, Chris Cillizza's The Fix--who bring their experience and knowledge to what they write.

Those traditions have been adapted to our online editions. The news department now has columnists and bloggers who write with strong viewpoints. We expect them to base their views on facts and to refrain generally from partisan or ideological writing. But there's no question that there is much more commentary and personal perspective in the print and online news pages of The Post than there has been in the past.

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Detroit: Many in Detroit feel the Post has been biased against the domestic car companies. A recent article about Bob Lutz seemed sensational in nature rather than factual. Do you have concerns about your coverage of the auto industry?

Marcus Brauchli: No, I have no concerns about a bias against the domestic car companies. I think the piece on Bob Lutz was a fascinating look inside the largest U.S. auto maker and how one of its senior executives has helped to shape its strategy. The piece should help U.S. taxpayers, who now will own a majority of GM, to understand better the culture of the company.

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Sewickley, Pa.: I read The Post online everyday right after I have finished the home delivery version of the Post-Gazette. I love both papers and am really afraid of losing them. If I could receive my daily fix via something like Kindle I would happily pay you for content. What is the outlook for something like that?

Marcus Brauchli: You can subscribe now to The Post and a number of other newspapers on Kindle. We're intrigued by the possibility of reaching a large audience through such hand-held readers, although so far the number of people who are reading The Post on Kindles is relatively small.

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Reston, Va.: Why won't you increase the size of the type used in the articles and editorials so we readers can READ the articles and editorials? We don't need extra large pictures, extra large headlines, and all that white space. I understand the need to save on newsprint, so why not have smaller photos, smaller headlines and larger type? Some editorials do use a larger type size making them easier to read. Why not do that for all the articles and editorials?

Marcus Brauchli: We are evaluating whether there are things we can do to improve the readability of our print font.

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Baltimore, Md.: I heard you got rid of Style's "Appreciations" of the recently deceased because they were self-indulgent or something. They seemed to me to be exactly what Style does best: riff off something in the popular culture in a personal, quirky sort of way. Can you explain your decision?

Marcus Brauchli: We didn't get rid of Appreciations. The Post is committed to publishing news obituaries (as opposed to paid notices) of local figures, as well as of prominent national and international figures. We decided that, when Style writes an Appreciation of someone who has died, we would meld the usual obituary details (date, place and cause of death, survivors, etc.) into the Appreciation. We simply wanted to eliminate redundant effort. There may well be instances when we will to run both an obituary and an Appreciation, but that will be something of an exception.

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New York, N.Y.: Will you still make room for the long investigative pieces (Kaiser's piece on lobbying, Gellman on the last V.P.) that only Washington reporters do well?

Marcus Brauchli: Of course. Those kinds of stories are our stock-in-trade.

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Falls Church, Va.: Why does the Post feel it necessary to flag its right-wing bloggers with their political leanings (Right Matters, Red America), but not those from the left (Ezra Klein, Dan Froomkin), who get neutral titles?

Marcus Brauchli: The viewpoints of all the bloggers on our site are pretty clear to any readers. The Post isn't flagging anything or labeling anyone.

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Georgetown, D.C.: The Post mobile site lags far behind the competition; when can we expect an upgrade and see that Post editors are paying more attention to it? Thank you.

Marcus Brauchli: We agree that our mobile site could be better, and we're working on it. We've put a lot of effort into mobile news alerts in the last couple of months. You can sign up for email alerts through our registration page or get text alerts to your mobile phone by texting "News" to 98999. (For more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/contents/mobile/alerts.html)

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Washington, D.C.: I would pay for an online subscription to the Post. Why don't you offer one? This would certainly help your financial situation.

Thank you.

Marcus Brauchli: We've certainly considered whether it would be possible to charge for our content online. We fund our news operations from revenues generated largely by advertising. Online advertisers pay for an audience--the larger, the better. If we put up a wall that readers would have to pay to cross, and then readers didn't cross it, our advertising revenues would probably suffer. So we are, you might say, evaluating our options prudently. That said, just about everybody in the news business is thinking about the question of whether or how to charge for news online. And if there were an answer that made sense for our readers, our advertisers and us, we'd no doubt weigh it seriously.

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Washington, D.C. 20015: Now that you have cleaned the ranks of the top Post.com editorial folks, what does this bode for the future of the news operation at the Post? I find it odd that all of the people in charge now are old-time print folks (seemingly with old-time print ideas) and the people who led the charge to create and mold Post.com have been pushed out of the door.

Marcus Brauchli: Interesting question, false premise. We have a lot of extraordinarily talented online journalists at washingtonpost.com. It is true that the top editor left, to my regret, and another top editor has decided to take a terrific job in another city at a noncompeting site. But we have a deep bench and we're looking to add to it. You'll hear more soon from us on some interesting editorial innovations online.

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Charlottesville, Va.: THANK YOU for Sunday's Book World! I thought it was gone for good. Are there plans to print them occasionally? I have subscribed to the Post for more years than I can remember even though I am out of the DC area, and I hope that the paper version continues to be published long into the future. There is no better newspaper.

Marcus Brauchli: Yes, we will continue to publish occasional stand-alone Book World sections on subjects such as summer reading, children's books, travel literature, and so on. Most of our Book World coverage now appears in Style or in the Outlook section.

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Leesburg, Va.: Given the remarkable and fluid news coming out of Iran over the weekend and today, I'm surprised that your dot com team hasn't scheduled a discussion for that topic. Isn't this a news event perfectly suited for this medium?

washingtonpost.com: Check back later today -- we've got a discussion coming up at 1, and the link will be up soon.

Marcus Brauchli: Answer above.

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Arlington, Va.: The No. 1 thing I would like to see change at the Post is the headlines on the mobile site - they seem to be static all day!

Marcus Brauchli: As I said, there's room for improvement on our mobile site.

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Marcus Brauchli: Many thanks for joining today's chat.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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