Ask the Post: Executive editor Marcus Brauchli takes your questions

Marcus Brauchli, Executive Editor
Marcus Brauchli, Executive Editor (Bill O'leary - The Washington Post)
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Marcus Brauchli
Washington Post Executive Editor
Monday, June 21, 2010; 1:00 PM

The Washington Post's executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, was online Monday, June 21 at 1 p.m. ET to take questions about the newspaper, the Web site and the current state of the news industry.

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Marcus Brauchli: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining today's chat.

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Washington, D.C.: In terms of time and substance, how much of your thinking is spent on the newer media platforms, Web site, mobile, etc. While there seems to be a lot of conversation about the future of these products, from the outside at least, there does not seem to be a lot of tangible results in these areas.

While we understand that the print part of the business still supplies most of the revenues, how are you planning for the future, e.g. a time where those print people are no longer subscribing or have passed on? Thanks!

Marcus Brauchli: Thanks for the question. The Post's newsroom is responsible for editorial content in print and digitally, on products from computers to tablets to mobile phones. There is a lot more ferment these days around digital news than print, although we continue to look for ways to innovate in serving our print readers. So, naturally, we spend a great deal of time thinking about how we can compete with key rivals and better serve digital audiences or deliver our news on new platforms.

That said, we still have a large, very engaged and loyal print readership in Washington, and senior editors here are intently focused on serving that audience, too. We believe our reporters, editors, graphic artists, photographers and producers can work across different platforms effectively.

You say you don't see a lot of tangible results in newer media platforms. We are one of the top newspaper websites in the world. Our mobile website and our iPhone application both are in fairly wide use. We haven't yet launched an iPad application (although the iPad browser experience is pretty good for users of washingtonpost.com) but we intend to do so soon. And we've been pretty innovative in how we approach online news--take a look at postpolitics.com or postlocal.com and tell us what you think.

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Washington, D.C.: Would the Post still be in business if not for Kaplan?

Marcus Brauchli: That's an interesting hypothetical question. The Washington Post Co. is a public company (www.washpostco.com), and you can see for yourself how the newspaper division fared last year (not great). You can also get some idea of the overall health of the parent company and how dependent it is on Kaplan.

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Bristow, Va.: Has investigative reporting declined at The Washington Post?

Marcus Brauchli: No. We have a robust investigative team under Assistant Managing Editor Jeff Leen, who has overseen the group for a number of years. His reporters are responsible for the stories over the last year on the mismanagement of AIDS money in D.C.; the poor safety record of the medical-evacuation helicopter industry; the scandal over the Redskins' ticket office's handling of season tickets; the conflicts of interest inherent in the investments of many members of Congress; and on and on. We also do investigative reporting in other departments, and we work and publish projects with Pro Publica and other nonprofit journalism groups that specialize in investigative reporting. Accountability journalism is a centerpiece of our journalistic mission.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: What are your thoughts on the future of printed newspapers? While their circulations are down around the country, do you believe there will be a sustained market for print editions well into the future?

Marcus Brauchli: We think printed newspapers will be around for years to come. Research that we do suggests many of our print readers remain immensely loyal to the print edition. Many don't want to go online for news, and even those who do often insist they prefer the newspaper as a compendium of the day's news. They like the serendipity of a newspaper, discovering things they didn't set out to find; they like the broadsheet presentation that allows them to see many articles, photos and graphics together on a large page; they like that a newspaper is finite; they like the tactile quality and portability of it. As long as we have those readers in sufficient numbers, it's a reasonable bet that we'll have advertising that aims to serve them.

We'll keep publishing a newspaper as long as there's an audience and a good business in it. But, to amend an answer I gave above, obviously we have to be economically viable to survive over time, regardless of the success of sister companies like Kaplan.

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Nickles and Dimes: 15 cents a week to keep getting TV Week, $50 a year to get a local business section. What is the Post's current attitude towards subscribers? Seems like you see us as piggy banks.

Marcus Brauchli: Thanks for this question. The Post this year began an initiative to deliver additional original content to readers who want to pay for it.

In the case of TV Week, we found that many of our readers weren't using our weekly print guide to television programming. Instead, they were relying on the digital programming guides provided by their cable-television service providers. A smaller group of readers wanted to continue receiving TV listings in print and showed an interest in more editorial features around television programming. So we reorganized and expanded TV Week and asked readers who want to receive the enhanced magazine to pay a small amount weekly for it.

Capital Business, our Monday regional business publication, is an entirely new product. It doesn't substitute for our daily business coverage; instead, it offers readers a substantial, original, locally focused package of news, statistics and other information about business in the District, northern Virginia and Maryland. We offer it to subscribers of The Post and deliver it along with your Monday paper.

Both of these initiatives allow readers to choose to receive more targeted content for a relatively modest additional charge, with the convenience of home newspaper delivery.

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Kensington, MD: I'll be as blunt as I can, with little expectation that you'll respond:

Why don't you fire your entire marketing department and hire some more good national reporters, including some who are equipped to do something besides report the ups and downs of the latest tracking polls?

I commend your outstanding foreign news coverage, but your national news these days seems to consist of nothing but stories on politics, politics, and politics, and even there it's likely to be on little more than the political implications of the latest poll. Do you even have full time New York or Los Angeles bureaus any more?

What was the ratio of marketers to reporters 20 years ago, and what is that ratio today?

Marcus Brauchli: Happy for the blunt question. Here's my somewhat squirrelly answer: I don't really know how the ratio has changed, but I suspect the evolution hasn't favored the marketing department.

We're glad you like our foreign coverage, in which we take pride and continue to invest. Our national staff remains one of the largest groups in our newsroom, and we almost always have reporters traversing the country in pursuit of stories that will illuminate the issues and challenges the country faces (see today's story on the fiscal troubles in Harrisburg, PA., http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/20/AR2010062003544.html).

That said, we do tend to put more emphasis on politics and issues that relate to Washington or to government, simply because that's what our audience comes to us for. Our paper and website both continue to run plenty of stories about the rest of the country, but fewer of them are staff-written (as opposed to news-agency) stories, except when we can tell readers something they won't find elsewhere but that they will find essential to know. We try to steer away from the same general-interest stories you can find elsewhere and put our resources into bringing you journalism that will shape how you think about an issue or a place, or that may play into a larger political or policy discussion.

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Arlington, Va.: Do you feel there is a need for a conservative blogger to offset Ezra Klein? Right Now doesn't count because he is really not conservative and he is more reporting on the movement like its a science experiment. I mean something that pushes conservative opinions in a thoughtful way in the same manner Ezra pushes liberal ones.

Marcus Brauchli: We've hired a number of bloggers like Ezra Klein and Dave Weigel who produce reported commentary, and we're always on the lookout for fresh talent. It's important to us to engage and draw readers from across the spectrum.

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Frank from NJ: I live in NJ but consider my favorite newspaper to be the Post. Last week while driving down south I stopped at Amtrak's Auto Train station (Lorton, Va.) to pick up the Post. Days later on the return trip I stopped there once again to pick up a Post. No question, just a thank for you continuing to publish my favorite paper in the nation.

Marcus Brauchli: Thank you.

And thanks to everyone who sent questions today.

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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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