Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Inside Salongate

The New Republic does the type of hard-hitting investigative reporting that newspapers used to do. It has a huge mega-turd (to use a Carl Hiaasen term) story on Salongate, WaPo's penny ante bid at influence peddling. Among the major revelations:

Katherine Weymouth is an idiot.
One theory was that she was simply na├»ve. “This was inexperience on her part,” says former Post executive editor Len Downie. Another held that her ego was to blame. “I think Katharine wants to relive the glory days of her grandmother,” says one executive, alluding to Katharine Graham’s legendary dinner parties.

The WaPo is folding faster than Kenny Rogers with no face cards.
Over the past year, the Post has folded its business section into the A-section, killed its book review, revamped its Sunday magazine, and redesigned the entire paper and website, while organizationally merging the print and online editions. Hundreds of staffers have left the Post since 2003, thanks to four rounds of buyouts.

Politico could have been an in-house property instead of a major competitor.
Downie counter-offered and told Harris and VandeHei they could manage a staff of eight to ten if they developed their project in-house. But Harris and VandeHei had plans to staff a newsroom of 100 reporters and editors. In November, they left the paper. Many of the people I spoke with agreed that the decision to let them walk out the door ended up being a disaster for the Post.

The new editor took a bulldozer to the All The President's Men newsroom.
Weymouth and Brauchli decided to bring the two divisions together and commissioned a dramatic renovation of the Post’s downtown headquarters. The move did not go smoothly for either side. The newsroom was gutted, and, during the construction this past summer, staffers worked either from their homes or out of makeshift quarters on the third floor and a windowless room on the ground level dubbed “The Gulag”--“a friggin’ sweatshop,” as one senior editor on the print side described it.

The print people and the webheads hate each other.
Print staffers grouse about the quality of the website. “Why does our homepage look so crappy and cheesy?” one reporter says. “Why is it not as nice as the Times’s page?” Others complain that Web producers don’t appreciate the Post’s august traditions. Some in the newsroom felt the frenzied coverage of the White House party-crasher scandal was driven in part by the millions of hits the story generated.

“Mouthpiece Theater” sucked really bad.
The entire controversy--which ended with Brauchli canceling the series--left the impression that the Post was aimlessly producing Web content in the hope that something, anything, would catch on.

WaPo will continue to whither.
But that Post will look very different from the one her grandmother ran. “It clearly is a smaller paper,” says Walter Pincus. “It’s not going to go back to where it was.”
And we'll be here to watch it.

(h/t to Gawker)


  1. Pssst - Yello - it's "wither"

    Thanks for reading and abbreviating because I sure as heck wasn't going to read the New Republic article.


  2. At least I got it right in the Blog Subtitle.