Tensions Surface Over Control of Political Content on WashingtonPost.com

By: Harry Jaffe

The Washington Post is struggling to unveil a political section on its Web site that it hopes will draw political pros and junkies.

But developing the new section has created conflict between the downtown DC newspaper staff and the Post’s Internet operation across the Potomac River in Virginia.

It’s also focused the ire of reporters on the management style of Susan Glasser, assistant managing editor for national news.

No one was talking on the record, and it’s hard to determine whether displeasure over Glasser amounts to typical personality differences or serious divisions within the national staff. But there is no question that national desk morale is suffering.

“We’re working very closely with the Web site,” Glasser said.

Sources at Washingtonpost.com said the relationship with Glasser “is improving.”

But reporters and editors working on the new political Web section report that Glasser and Bill Hamilton, who together run the newspaper’s national coverage, are tangling with Web site personnel over who will control the content of the new feature, which might be called “The Trail”—or another name yet to be determined.

Glasser won’t call it a blog. She asks that reporters call it a journal. Reporters say Glasser and Hamilton expect them to feed the new “site within a site” often; in the process, Glasser and Hamilton have insinuated that Post reporters are getting beaten too often on political stories.

Conflict over the new Web feature has exacerbated longstanding frustrations with Glasser, which began with the unceremonious reassignment of veteran reporter Chuck Babington from the senior political staff. He was welcomed by the Business section.

“They treated him like crap,” one reporter told The Washingtonian.

Glasser came to the Post from Roll Call in 1998 and has distinguished herself as a reporter and editor. She helped edit the Clinton impeachment coverage, during which she worked closely with White House reporter Peter Baker. They married and left to cover Moscow for the Post. Her star rose when she improved the Outlook section; she then won the coveted top national editing job earlier this year.