Post Watch: Will Post and Post.com Ever Live Together?

By: Harry Jaffe

The Washington Post newspaper, in downtown DC since its founding in 1877, is going to be absorbed gradually into Washingtonpost.com, its Internet cousin across the Potomac River in Arlington.

“The question is not whether the two will be merged,” one editor says, “but when.”

Like most daily publications, the Post has been losing readers and advertisers for the past decade, while the Web version, which depends on stories and columns from Post newspaper reporters, has been gaining ground.

Many news organizations—theNew York Times and Wall Street Journal among them—already have combined their print and online operations.

Merging the Post’s two sides seemed inevitable when Katharine Weymouth—granddaughter of the legendary Katharine Graham—became chief executive of Washington Post Media, with control of both the paper and the Web site. Still, the Post is at the early stages of connecting its two sides, and no staffers would describe the process on the record.

The three editors engineering the merger are Jim Brady and Liz Spayd on the dot-com side and Phil Bennett at the newspaper. If the merger goes smoothly, Bennett could have a leg up on replacing Len Downie, whose tenure as executive editor will end in September.

It’s very possible that the Post’s new editor will control both the paper and the Web site, which have been at war over many aspects of coverage and timing.

Will readers of the paper notice big changes after the merger? Not necessarily, but reporters will post more quickly on Washingtonpost.com, so news will be more immediate and plentiful on the Web site. The newspaper is likely to shrink in size and stature.

In the larger corporate picture, the newspaper of Watergate fame is becoming dwarfed by other parts of the Post Company. The parent company already derives most of its income from Kaplan, its educational arm.

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This article appears in the July 2008 issue of Washingtonian. To see more articles in this issue, click here.

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