Robert J. McCartney, a veteran Washington Post editor who has directed local, national, foreign and business coverage, served as a correspondent in Europe and Central America and currently runs the department that feeds breaking news to The Post's Web site, has been named assistant managing editor with responsibility for metropolitan news coverage, the paper announced yesterday.

In his new job, McCartney, 51, of Bethesda, will assume control of The Post's far-flung metropolitan staff -- the paper's largest -- made up of more than 160 reporters and editors who cover the District, Virginia and Maryland.

The announcement was made by Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and Managing Editor Philip Bennett.

"With the largest staff at the paper, Metro is closest to our readers," Downie and Bennett said in a memo to the staff. "Its coverage is essential to understanding the forces transforming our region."

"We believe Bob has the experience and vision to help the Metro staff explore the area's limitless potential for scoop-filled breaking news, authoritative beat reporting and storytelling that rivals any in daily journalism," they said.

McCartney, whose father is a retired newspaper correspondent, is married and has one son. He grew up in Bethesda and graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, where his son, Daniel, 17, edits the online version of the school paper.

McCartney, former managing editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris, succeeds Jo-Ann Armao, who for nine years presided over a metro staff that expanded to keep pace with the rapidly growing region. She will become a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University in the fall.

McCartney assumes his new duties July 1 amid the paper's concern over slipping circulation, the increasingly diverse population of the sprawling region and intense media competition for the attention of consumers.

"I'm honored," he said. "This is a wonderful opportunity and challenge. It's an abundantly talented staff. The stories in downtown D.C. to Prince George's County to Loudoun County are varied and interesting and of great importance to everybody around. So I'm thrilled.

"It's particularly important right now that we find ways to connect with readers in the Washington area," he said. The paper needs "to keep the readers we have, get back any that we've lost and lure in new ones."

Robert J. McCartney