Post Watch: “We’re Not a National Paper?”

By: Harry Jaffe

The Washington Post has closed its three remaining domestic bureaus—in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago—to focus on its “central mission”: covering the Washington region, national politics, and policy. In shuttering the bureaus, executive editor Marcus Brauchli said the Post is “not a national news organization.”

The move elicited Bronx cheers, including one from former New York bureau chief Michael Powell, who now writes for the New York Times. “As Washington became a more sophisticated and worldly place, the Post reflected that,” Powell tells Post Watch. “Why is the paper now treating Washington as it was in 1965?”

Here’s another question: Why maintain 13 foreign bureaus—from Tokyo to Nairobi and Moscow to Mexico City—if your focus is Washington?

“We have an outstanding foreign staff that understands its mission is to explain the world to a powerful and discerning audience in Washington,” Brauchli says. “There is no substitute for having strong, smart correspondents on the ground.”

He notes that correspondents are no longer needed “on the ground” in New York and LA because the United States is “a single information market. It’s possible to know what’s happening elsewhere in the country virtually in real time—and to respond to it.”

Brauchli adds: “The world is a different kind of place—it’s not yet flat. Not having a reporter in Chicago is not the same as not having one in Beijing.”

The Post will cover national stories by dispatching reporters from Washington. This approach, says Powell, is no substitute for stationing reporters in the field. Of Brauchli, he says: “I think he’s misjudged Washington.”

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