Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Year in the Life of the Washington Post

Went to a talk by Frances Stead Sellers recently at an IPRA lunch - a strange group - I felt young which is rare these days. Not very friendly either - mostly 50 and 60 somethings starting their own companies. One woman who asked for advice on personal finance PR was downright dismissive. Her comment when I tried to explain what we've been doing with the Healthcare Blue Book to her? "Oh so it's just like every other PR effort."

No it's not - but you go ahead and think that. Won't write down the word that came to mind but you know what it is. Anyway nice to be a few years ahead of them. And the feeling young was lovely.

Stead Seller's talk gave a pretty good update on the state of the newspaper business these days. This past year was a train wreck but she thinks the reorganization is done. Here's what we heard:

Slashed newsroom staff - Over the past year the Post has gone from 600 to 300 journalists - the survivors are working their butts off.

Combined sections - In my areas - science, health and technology - they used to have individual editors for each section - now Frances oversees all of them and they're considered a group. She does a macro edit then passes stories along to content editors who do the rest.

Who to pitch - the reporter, reporter, reporter. They are the ones who are making decisions these days about the stories that they write - the section editors are totally overburdened.

What are they reading - Industry blogs, some social media, using Google Alerts like the rest of us to follow beats. So it's particularly important to get your keywords right.

Science has taken a huge hit - with all the emphasis that used to be on science, now it's science and health - kind of a weird split. As they continue to debate the bills guess which subject area is winning?

How do they decide which emails to read?- It's all in the subject line - that's also what they send around the newsroom.

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