Ombudsman Patrick Pexton seems skeptical that The Washington Post’s regional journalism will be unaffected by the decision, announced Thursday, to vacate most of the Post’s rented bureau space in Virginia and Maryland. While Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and PostLocal Editor Vernon Loeb have said the decision will not affect the number of reporters covering those areas, Pexton remembers his days on a local beat:
To keep public officials accountable in local governments you have to be in their faces, constantly. They have to know that you are watching, all the time, everywhere. Without reporters whose sole jobs are to poke their noses into every corner of county and city government, accountability suffers, and the voters do too.
Pexton also acknowledges the Post’s financial situation:
The Post is still cutting costs, and will continue to do so. That’s just the reality. I hear persistent rumors, which I cannot confirm, of a target in the newsroom of another $2 million in cost cuts this year. Advertising revenue in the first six months of the year wasn’t what was expected, for most publications across the country, and so, too, for The Post. … I hope this is truly not a retrenchment. But if it is, or if it just means that local reporters will be working out of their homes, or the local Starbucks, to save money, then this is a sad moment for The Post.