U.S. News & World Report announced on Thursday that it would be shutting down its opinion section. The move is part of an effort to pull out of D.C. coverage in favor of the country around it. “We’re really getting out of Washington,” editor and chief content officer Brian Kelly told the Erik Wemple Blog on Thursday.
Kelly wouldn’t say whether the move would result in layoffs. The site’s masthead lists a few staffers assigned to the magazine’s opinion coverage. Those staffers put together a section by enlisting a range of contributors.
Though Kelly complimented the caliber of opinion writing on the site, he said that it derived largely from goings-on in Washington, a journalistically “overcrowded and not very productive” coverage area. In a memo to staff, Kelly and chief executive and President William D. Holiber highlighted the achievements of U.S. News specials such as Best Countries, Best States and this month’s launch of the Healthiest Communities package — products that feature rankings and deep policy reporting. “The work we have done in this space over the last couple of years has made clear that we have distinct, useful news products with enormous growth potential. The combination of data, reporting, analysis and story-telling is resonating with a broad range of readers and advertisers—and setting us apart from the increasingly commoditized, and financially troubled, marketplace of ordinary news.”
Kelly told the Erik Wemple Blog: “We’ve become very successful on the Internet because so much of our content gives you something useful. Another Donald Trump story is not useful to the reader.” The magazine ended its print issues for subscribers in late 2010, though it still prints guidebooks on Best Colleges, Best Business Schools and Best Hospitals.
U.S. News, Kelly said, is “financially very successful” and runs largely on revenue from advertisers, though it does have a subscription-based college search tool. News reporters focused on Washington will be moving into the magazine’s growth areas, including health care, infrastructure and education. So folks alighting on the site for a story on the latest twist in the tariff fight might find wire copy, while U.S. News staffers look elsewhere. “We are doing this as part of a growth strategy,” Kelly said.
Update: Managing editor for opinion Robert Schlesinger tweeted:
And another member of the team tweeted:
Building on the success of Best Countries, Best States and this month’s Healthiest Communities launch, we would like to announce that we will be taking our news coverage in a new direction and to a whole new level. Put simply, we are doubling down on the journalism that has been increasingly important to our readers and successful for us as a company.
The work we have done in this space over the last couple of years has made clear that we have distinct, useful news products with enormous growth potential. The combination of data, reporting, analysis and story-telling is resonating with a broad range of readers and advertisers—and setting us apart from the increasingly commoditized, and financially troubled, marketplace of ordinary news.
This new approach to news will parallel the success of our consumer products and journalism by allowing readers—engaged citizens, business leaders and policy-makers—to evaluate the performance of their government and make decisions accordingly. We will continue to deepen our focus on the issues that matter the most to people—mainly health, education and the economy.
As part of this shift, we are phasing out the Opinion section. We greatly thank the team for their contributions over the last several years.
Outside our walls, we think this will become a big deal over time. We are expanding our emphasis on what we’ve been calling civic journalism. We will further work to find solutions to society’s challenges by using objective data and highlighting what works. Much of this will just be an extension of the quality work we already produce: We explain the issues that matter, we profile the leaders who make a difference and we dive into data. But there is also an opportunity to go beyond traditional boundaries and play a more useful role in our readers’ lives. We maintain our objectivity and envision new products and new thinking. The next steps will be very exciting and this new direction has the full backing of the company.
We thank you for all of your continuous efforts to make U.S. News successful and look forward to the future growth of our company.
Bill and Brian