Changes—Announced and Unannounced—at the Washington Post

By: Harry Jaffe

The Washington Post press release announcing that Kevin Merida will become assistant managing editor for national news answered a few questions. Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Bill Hamilton, who ran the national desk after the removal of Susan Glasser, will remain with the Post. Hamilton becomes editor of “enterprise journalism.” Chandrasekaran becomes an associate editor working on “projects.”

“These moves mark the start of what will be a series of shifts aimed at better structuring our news operations,” said the press release.

According to reports from the newsroom, unconfirmed by officials, the shifts will include the exit of managing editor Philip Bennett. This will be no surprise to students of Management 101. Having been passed over for the executive editor job, which went to Marcus Brauchli, Bennett was a dead man walking in the newsroom. Bennett has been managing the day-to-day new operations while Brauchli concentrated on strategic affairs.

The same sources hear that Liz Spayd could become the first managing editor of Washington Post Media, which means she would oversee help both the newspaper and washingtonpost.com. Spayd seems perfectly suited for the merged role. She rose from reporter to national news chief, then crossed the Potomac to direct political news at washingtonpost.com.

Spayd could not be reached to comment.

What’s beyond speculation is that Post publisher Katharine Weymouth has told managers she hopes to trim $85 million from the Post’s operating budget over the next two years. That amounts to about 5 percent of the annual expenses. In meetings after Weymouth handed down a “strategic framework” letter last week, editors have told reporters that the news hole will shrink as more stories are published on washingtonpost.com. There will be few new hires, if any. Another round of buyouts should be expected. To save on newsprint, the size of the newspaper will shrink and the newsprint will be thinner.

A good time was had by all at Thursday night’s party for Brauchli at the Georgetown home of Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, but the $85 million in coming cuts—roughly 10 percent of the newspaper division’s expenses—was on the minds of many in the room.

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