Here’s one reason the Washington Post is losing readers: it is in a daily scrum on terrain it once ruled—covering Washington politics.
The snapshot of one day’s news cycle may not offer a broad comparison, but on one Tuesday in October, the Post lost ground on many fronts.
Let’s begin with the coverage of the Virginia governor’s race. The Post did run a page one news piece on the first prime-time debate between Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat R. Creigh Deeds. It was a serviceable account. On washingtonpost.com, the McDonnell-Deeds story drifted to the bottom of the “More Headlines” section. Chris Cillizza posted a well-reported piece on polls saying Deeds is trailing with strategists describing how he might win.
Meanwhile, over on AOL’s Politics Daily, Jill Lawrence’s column on the debate led the home page, with pictures and a come-hither angle: how will presidential politics play out in Virginia?
Adam Nagourney in the New York Times also casts the Deeds-McDonnell race into the national realm with a smart column asking whether Virginia Dems might have been better off with Clintonite Terry McAuliffe on the ballot. Deeds beat him in the primary.
Politics Daily also ran the news that Hillary Clinton had ruled out running for the White House on its home page under “Top Stories.” The Post played the news on page two with a story by Anne Kornblut and an artsy, bizarre photo of Clinton through a windshield: half of the image was a blurred reflection on a side window.
I suppose the Post gave the Hillary Clinton story low priority because it was a second day story based on Ann Curry’s Monday interview on NBC; JoAnn Armao did blog about the impact on feminine politics in the “PostPartisan.” The Times and the Post both blogged about Clinton’s declaration on Monday.
Politico carried the Deeds-McDonnell debate on its home page, but it also gave a ride to Ben Stein’s Smith's scoop that Liz Cheney is launching an interest group, Keep America Safe, designed to attack President Obama’s foreign policy. It will advocate the hard line positions taken by her father, former vice president Dick Cheney.
There was zip in the Post, though the Post’s Jason Horowitz got the scoop last week on sister Mary’s starting her own lobbying firm.
The Post did run a front page profile of a woman who is the “11th-highest-ranked professional competitive eater in the world.”
To the Post’s credit, its lead article on the Obama Administration’s unannounced deployment of 13,000 support troops to Afghanistan rebounded around the media world and got links on the Daily Beast and Huffington Post.
But on politics—once its domain—the Post continues to cede valuable territory.