Ask the Post: Managing editor Raju Narisetti takes your questions
Monday, April 19, 2010; 1:00 PM
Washington Post managing editor Raju Narisetti was online Monday, April 19 at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions about the newspaper, Web site and the current state of the news industry.
Raju Narisetti: Thank you for joining me in today's chat. Hope some or all of you checked out our new Capital Business weekly publication that launched today? Here is a free preview of the first issue at washingtonpost.com:
Fairfax, Va.: How much coverage of the British parliamentary elections will the Post be providing?
Raju Narisetti: We have had some terrific coverage so far--did you read Tom Shales and his review of the big TV debate between the three candidates?
It is an important geopolitical story so we plan to have robust coverage in print and online.
Charlotte, N.C.: I read both the NY Times and WAPO online daily. The comments on the NYT are generally fair and well thought out. The comments on WAPO are crazy and almost unreadable with the trails of former comments. I think it would make sense to show the comments oldest to newest and cut off the comments if someone has already posted. Your thoughts?
Raju Narisetti: I have really struggled to understand why this is. In many ways, perhaps because of where we are located (Washington) and our name, I wonder if we have come to represent what people see as right or wrong with politics. The debates are indeed polarizing and often quite troubling, if that is a reflection of some of the debate that is out there.
We struggle to keep up with human intervention/moderation because of our limited staffing and are hoping that a new comments platform later this year will give us (and our readers) better tools to separate the sensible from the profane/nonsensical.
In general, I do lean toward the comments reflecting what is being said out there unless it violates our stated policies.
But we could definitely make it a better experience for our audiences than it tends to be right now.
Vienna, Va.: In Saturday's real estate section, you highlighted an area near Tysons Corner. In the little facts block, you show that the median sales price rose 92% year over year. Obviously the mix of properties from last year to this year was no longer the same. In other words, last year may have been more condo sales and this year included more single family sales. Median prices are meaningless...at least toss out the high and low values to get something that accurately reflects price movements.
Raju Narisetti: Good point. Will flag it to our Real Estate editor. Thanks.
Arlington, Va.: Tony Kornheiser regularly lambastes you on his radio show for (he claims) taking him to the woodshed. What exactly happened regarding his departure from the Post, and have you ever responded publicly?
Raju Narisetti: We don't discuss specific personnel issues in public at the Post. But I am glad Tony has found sustained material for his radio show from one conversation I have had with him many months ago.
Horoscopes: Can you PLEASE get rid of this part of the paper? Why encourage the advancement of irrational pseudo-science? (Christopher Hitchens never tires of pointing out how ridiculous it is that WaPo continues to print horoscopes).
Raju Narisetti: When I started a newspaper in India prior to joining the Post, I didn't run horoscopes, bucking what is the norm in Indian newspapers.
But there are thousands of readers who like reading horoscopes and expect it from the Post because the paper has run that feature for decades. I don't think, in circa 2010, newspapers can afford to stop running features that are popular with our readers. Plus, one person's "irrational pseudo-science" is another reader's daily entertainment reading.
College Park, Md.: When are you finally going to be honest with your readers and move Pearlstein and Klein out of the business section and into the opinion section where they belong? For people interested in hearing the later liberal talking points, these are two excellent columnists. For people looking for business news and opinions, they are all wrong.
Raju Narisetti: We are being honest in labeling them, very clearly, as columnists. While they may be "wrong" for you in terms of their opinions, they could be "right" for a lot of other readers. I hired Ezra and work closely with Steve (for On Leadership) and find them to be honest, smart, reporting-driven writers who have interesting, fact-based opinions. Ezra's blog remains among the most popular blogs at the Post and Steve's column is also very popular with readers.
Kensington, Md.: Mr. Narisetti, when can we expect to see some of those "tiering" changes in your "Comments" entries that Andrew Alexander mentioned in a recent column? Like pretty much everyone I know, I've found the overwhelming bulk of those "Comments" to be completely devoid of substance, full of bile, and accomplishing little more than driving these discussions down to the lowest common denominator.
Surely there has to be a way to do something about this that still allows for non-delayed posting. At the very least, everyone who posts should have a verifiable home address and phone number, even if it's not posted along with the message. You hold to this standard for letters in the print edition. Is there any reason not to do this for online Comments?
washingtonpost.com: Andrew Alexander - Online readers need a chance to comment, but not to abuse
Raju Narisetti: Tiering comments is under active consideration and will be part of our new comments platform later this year. We have a big internal debate on the possibility of naming/shaming, if you will, without dampening the discourse that happens online. I can't say our new comments platform will solve all the issues one sees in commenting but should definitely get better. Now, if only I could have another dozen comments moderators, this would get really easy. But budgets being what they are in 2010 and beyond, I am looking for other, tech-driven solutions.
Bethesda, Md.: I like your Capital Business weekly publication that launched today. New article topics, development, finance, green energy, government, etc. Will you look at what Agency will takeover the National Geospatial and Imagery Agency space on Sangamore Road when NGIA moves out before Sept. 30, 2011?
Raju Narisetti: Thank you very much. I am glad you like Capital Business. Hope you will become a subscriber...at $49 a year, it costs less than what it cost me to take three kids to a 3D movie this Saturday morning!
Will pass on your question to Dan Beyers, the editor of the section.
Arlington, Va.: Two questions. 1) Can you please explain what a managing editor does? Do you assign reporters to stories or determine what the paper will cover? 2) Would you consider adding a feature like the NYTimes' Metropolitan Diary? Thank you!
Raju Narisetti: To be honest, most of the time it is meetings and more meetings, it seems like as far as the "managing" part of the editor job goes for me. We have two managing editors and Liz Spayd, my counterpart, essentially runs all the daily news coverage of the paper. I am responsible for washingtonpost.com's news side as well as a bunch of projects (from a new publishing system we are putting in place to a redesign to Capital Business). The print sections I oversee--Style, Weekend, Magazine, Travel, Food--all have very strong editors who determine what their sections will cover. I second guess and weigh in with ideas once in a while. We have a 600+ person newsroom so there is a lot of "managing" the news business that goes on, especially because of state of the news business isn't all that great. Not half as much fun as the title seems to suggest, isn't it?
Our Metro section has several features that are about slices of local life, including contributions from readers. There aren't any imminent plans to add a column such as NYT's Metropolitan Diary.
Dunn Loring, Va.: You ignored the point of the question regarding Pearlstein and Klien. They are not BUSINESS columnists; they are political opinion columnists. Please label them accurately as such and put them in the correct section of the paper.
Raju Narisetti: I spent 19 years as a "business" reporter and editor and am of the firm view that much of what we all write about is business. Most, if not all of Steve's columns are about business issues and between health care reform and financial reform, hard to not see Ezra as someone who doesn't write about business either.
Beltsville, Md.: Even though I get The Post at home, I still take an Express at the Metro because it contains one commute's worth of (usually the most important) news.
Any possibility that you could turn the "A" section into something like the Express, that I could take just that section with me in the morning, and put the more detailed news into the other sections.
Raju Narisetti: While we could do a better job of carrying more "briefs" or short news items in our A-section, many of our readers also really like the analytical and explanatory journalism that the Post provides, especially in the A section. It doesn't mean we shouldn't always be shooting for tighter writing and shorter stories. After all, our biggest competition is your lack of time. Some papers, such as WSJ, have perfected the art of providing a terrific digest on its front page. We aim for a newsy, relevant and interesting set of stories, images and graphics on the front page.
Laurel, Md.: Ombundsman Alexander has written about the need to moderate comments, because of "offensive" ones. Does the Post have any real guidelines over what constitutes reasonable opinion, even if someone somewhere might be offended by it.
The mass shooting in Southeast a couple weeks ago brought up a lot of issues about the raising of children in poor, urban, predominantly black areas. Obviously, some people are going to take some other people's proscriptions as offensive to their self-image or values.
washingtonpost.com: Andrew Alexander - Online readers need a chance to comment, but not to abuse
Raju Narisetti: Thanks. As I have said in a couple of other answers today, this remains a challenging "work-in-progress." We do have clearly stated guidelines and try and catch those that try to circumvent them. We also rely a lot on readers flagging such comments to us. But there are several comments that are one person's opinion and while disagreeable don't necessarily violate our standards. We tend to lean toward keeping them in than taking them out.
Arlington, Va..: About how many people read the washingtonpost.com per day? What is the average daily circulation of The Washington Post print edition? What do these numbers mean to you?
Raju Narisetti: It really varies. In all of March, we had 299.2 million page views and 30.765 million unique visitors (which is a record for washingtonpost.com, by the way.) Average daily circulation is about 650,000 (I could be off by a few thousands here so don't hold me to it.)
It means that we enjoy strong loyalty and readership in our print circulation area and that our journalism has never reached more readers online than it is today. Tends to make me very optimistic about the future of journalism, especially Post content.
Washington, D.C.: In July 2009, I submitted two corrections. Neither has been corrected, and I have received no response. I emailed again to check on the status a month ago.
One was a minor but clear technical error in my professional field. The other was later noted in a published letter to the editor but never received a formal correction and remains uncorrected in the online version of the story.
What should I do?
Raju Narisetti: Could you email them to milton coleman, a senior editor incharge of monitoring corrections in our newsroom? He is at firstname.lastname@example.org. There could be good reasons for both those not running in our corrections column but he can take a look and let you know.
Arlington, Va.: Would you please return complete baseball box scores to the Sports section? The abbreviated version is simply unsatisfactory -- it doesn't even include stolen bases!
Raju Narisetti: Since I am not fully aware of all the reasons behind this--suspect we give our Sports department a hard time if they keep adding pages--I will pass this on to Matt Vita, our sports editor. The challenge is to try and cover as much ground as we can in various sports given limited newsprint space.
Washington, D.C.: You stated earlier in one of the posts that "We are being honest in labeling them, very clearly, as columnists." I respectfully disagree. It often requires a concerted effort to know that. If you check on the posting here you will see that the word "columnist" is grayed out in the lightest text on the page.
When I click the "News" tab at the top of the WP homepage I get a page half filled with columns, discussions, blogs and comments. I don't get "hard news" on the Opinion tab but I do get opinion on the "News" tab. Please don't blame readers if you are mis-categorizing the pieces. To me clicking the news tab should be a filter that enforces the hard line between news and opinion.
Raju Narisetti: Columnists come in all hues and shapes. The tradition of having news columnists is as old perhaps as having opinion columnists. But your point that the nuances are lost between one or the other is well taken.
Washington, D.C.: How come the Post's TechCrunch blog is regularly allowed to use language that the rest of the paper cannot use? See this post for example.
Raju Narisetti: We clearly label content from Tech Crunch as content from their site. It is among the more popular online outposts for tech coverage and also has a huge following at washingtonpost.com. Ever so often we do label something for clarity (for instance when the did their annual April 1 fake story) but generally don't interfere with their content.
We see washingtonpost.com as a place where there is more aggregation/partner content than less and don't necessarily plan to apply all of Post's style guides to third-party content. Within reason, that is. We do tend to look at any specific reader complaints on a case-by-case basis.
"I don't think...: " I don't think, in circa 2010, newspapers can afford to stop running features that are popular with our readers."
Tell that to the grieving fans of Book World. I canceled my subscription the next week.
Raju Narisetti: Touche. I do like to point out that we run a lot of book reviews in Washington Post in Style and in Outlook. We haven't reduced our book review staff or our desire to get strong and timely reviews--of both fiction and non-fiction--into the paper.
The problem with Book World was simple. As a standalone section, it didn't make money and also had among the lowest readership of any sections in the paper.
So in that sense, our decision-making on such matters is fairly consistent.
Falls Church, Va.: Was the "Capital Business" thing supposed to come with today's paper? I didn't see any extra section.
Raju Narisetti: Hi. It is not a section of The Washington Post. It is a new weekly publication that was launched today. Home subscribers of the Post got a free copy today so they can sample the content and see if they would want to subscribe to it ($49/year). If you were a home subscriber and didn't get one, send me your address (email me at email@example.com) and I will have one mailed to you. It should also appear every Monday with the Post for a few more weeks. Let me know what you think of it once you have read it. Thanks.
Baltimore: Ezra Klein makes no bones about being o the left on most issues--he vigorously supported a public option in the health care debate. But I don't understand how Steven Pearlstein could be labeled a reflexive liberal. He makes what is going on in the broader economy clear and understandable to one reader. And I can tell you that the warnings he sounded in 2007 about the coming collapse of the subprime market helped my retirement funds from being decimated when I moved the bulk of my holdings into bonds from stocks. The very fact that Pearlstein is not an alarmist is what galvanized me when he repeatedly said a storm was coming. Thanks.
Raju Narisetti: Thanks. I will pass this on to Steve. Your comment and the previous comment actually help explain why Steve (and other columnists in the Post) are popular. They make readers debate the larger issues, whether the readers agree with them or not. That, to me, is the mark of a good columnist.
Washington, D.C.: Wondered if you're doing anything to keep the peace in the newsroom in the wake of the Allen-Roig Franzia scuffle? Thanks.
Raju Narisetti: You wouldn't believe how peaceful the newsroom has been before and since then...the thing about newsrooms is that journalists, including editors, have short attention spans and we are constantly moving on to the new, new excitement.
Washington, DC: I agree with those posters who argue that the Post confuses news and opinions with respect to the labels applied to Klein and Pearlstein. I have another beef, though. Why aren't they balanced with more conservative "news columnists"? The few conservatives you have on your pages are all clustered on the op-ed pages.
Raju Narisetti: We would like to believe we are equal opportunity offenders...In fact I just hired David Weigel. Have you checked out his Right Now blog yet? You will love it, I think. It is all about "the Conservative movment and the Republican Party"
Pearlstein and Klein: I support you in your characterization of these two fine columnists as belonging under the "Business" heading.
It has long been a peeve of mine that much of what is labeled business reporting refers to that day's Dow, corporate takeovers, quarterly profits and such. Yes, that's important. So is how business and financial legislation affects consumers, and whether proposed industry regulations would actually accomplish what they set out to do.
Both of these columnists have firm grasps on the issues at hand, write extremely well, make themselves accessible to readers. That they are occasionally (or in Ezra's case, frequently) critical of mainstream American business practices does not mean they should be kicked out of business journalism.
Raju Narisetti: Thank you for the comments
Reston, VA.: The New York Times stated it will be going behind a pay wall soon. The Wall Street Journal has recently closed off even more of its content. The New Republic is closing off some of its content, too. When will The Washington Post begin charging for its content online? What will remain free and what won't?
Raju Narisetti: While no specific decisions have been made, we are not sure putting washingtonpost.com behind a paid wall is necessarily the way to serve our reader (and business) needs. While we would like to get paid for our content--both in print and online--we are not in any rush to charge for all of washingtonpost.com content. We will, however, experiment with different approaches but nothing is imminent.
State College, Pa.: Would you please consider adding an option on the Web site so that we can read articles on one page? I know you can do that through the print option, but it's not always clear that's an option.
Thanks very much for all your work.
Raju Narisetti: What and lose all those page views when you click on multiple pages?!! Just kidding.
We should and we will when our article pages redesign kicks in later this year. Thanks for flagging it.
Raju Narisetti: Thank you for all your lively questions. I think either Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli or Managing Editor Liz Spayd is up for your usual third degree one of these days. I will be back soon. Take care and do keep telling us how the Post is serving you in print and online. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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