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Raju Narisetti’s Departure Leads to Shifting Responsibilities at the “Washington Post”

Sandy Sugawara and Katharine Zaleski could come out as big winners in the “Post” shakeup.

Raju Narisetti was so important to the Washington Post he’s irreplaceable. Reading between the lines, one gets that sense from the memo that went out today from Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli.

“With Raju’s departure,” Brauchli wrote, “we want to designate some people to pick up critical duties that he handled, at least on a temporary basis.”

The memo goes on to name about a dozen people and their “teams” to handle the tasks left undone when Narisetti left this month for the Wall Street Journal. Brauchli hand picked Narisetti to split managing editor duties with Liz Spayd. He’s handled the Post’s digital side since 2009.

The big winners in the post-Narisetti age are Sandy Sugawara and Katharine Zaleski.

Sugawara, who’s been at the Post for decades, began as a beat writer, moved up to become top business editor and, recently, editor of the universal desk. In her broadened role, she and her team will control the play and timing of news across the print and digital pages. Brauchli demands, “When they come looking for news, please work with them to ensure we’re moving fast, either with staff or wire content.”

Zaleski came to the Post from Huffington Post in 2009 to help spread Post stories across social media networks. She’s now executive director of digital news. Post-Narisetti, Brauchli says she “will be the primary contact for all matters pertaining to digital traffic and engagement… .” And she will report directly to Brauchli.

As for Narisetti, he will manage digital networks for the Wall Street Journal, where he and Brauchli both once worked.

At this point, no editors to replace him have surfaced, but Sugawara and Zaleski could be prime candidates.

Read the text of the memo below:

Colleagues, with Raju’s departure, we want to designate some people to pick up critical duties that he handled, at least on a temporary basis. We’re intensifying efforts to ensure everyone is working to deliver the best journalism to the widest audience. And we’re continuing to look at structure to make sure we’re positioned to continue our recent successes in digital traffic, engagement and product development.

Reflecting our strategic emphasis on the homepage and on mobile, email and alerts, Sandy Sugawara and the team led by Eric Rich, Tim Curran and the homepage staff will take on a broader role in the newsroom. Specifically, their remit—to decide what news gets delivered to what audience in what form at what length and time—will extend across the room. By that, we mean when they come looking for news, please work with them to ensure we’re moving fast, either with staff or wire content. Sandy and her team will report to Liz.

They will work closely with Katharine Zaleski, who will be the primary contact for all matters pertaining to digital traffic and engagement, which is vital to our continued digital success. Together with Cory Haik, Katharine and her team will ensure that our bloggers and interactive teams are moving swiftly to develop content and features around the news, for the web and mobile. Katharine and Cory will also coordinate with innovation editors and producers in coverage groups on daily and medium-term coverage.

Katharine will report to Marcus; Cory continues to report to Emilio Garcia-Ruiz.

Emilio, Cory and Hal Straus will lead the newsroom’s involvement with new products. Emilio for now is our primary representative in business-side committees and meetings on digital innovation and products, or will take charge of deciding who should be, and he will oversee our efforts to develop new digital and especially mobile products. He’ll be a primary liaison with Laura Evans and research on new products (although the UND, our engagement teams and others also work closely with Laura and research); with Ken Babby and the business-development team on new initiatives and products; and in the weekly digital executive meeting. He will report to Marcus.

Both Sandy and Emilio will coordinate with Advertising, Sandy as the point person for daily advertising issues in print or digitally, Emilio on projects or new products. Similarly, Sandy, along with Michael Taylor, will be the key contacts with our colleagues in IT, while Emilio will work with IT on projects.

The role in digital of David Griffin and his design, photo and graphics teams won’t change, although he will report to Marcus.

These arrangements will keep us focused as we move forward, even as we continue to review structure and weigh further changes or additions to our organization. We’ve had great success lately in expanding and building our digital audiences, and we fully expect to continue that under these senior leaders.

Marcus          Liz

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