Is more local news in Washington Post’s future if Brauchli leaves?

The Washington Post
The Washington Post’s print coverage of local news is “inadequate,” Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton writes. “On a given day, Metro has five local news stories that start on the front page and two or three other short ones inside, plus some briefs,” he says. There’s more on the paper’s website, Pexton writes, “But it is still pretty thin.”

Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli made some progress in curing the Post’s internal divisions, merging its once-feuding online and print newsrooms. But the paper’s muddled mission — it has a mostly local print audience and a mostly national Web one — remains.

When publisher Katharine Weymouth laid out her vision for the paper in 2008, she called for it to be “for and about Washington.” But in a Vanity Fair profile of the paper, Sarah Ellison reported Weymouth had said, “One of our biggest problems is we have three people at the top of the paper, none of whom give a shit about Sports, Metro, or Style.” Style is the Post’s often locally focused arts and living section. (Counterpoint: I worked for a publication that attempted and failed to supplant the Post’s local coverage.)

Brauchli is widely rumored to be leaving the paper. Whether that happens this week, at the end of the year or when his young daughter takes her newspaper national, the Post still requires clarity on what kind of news organization it hopes to be.

(In a bizarre reminder of the two worlds it inhabits, its local editor, Vernon Loeb, coauthored Paula Broadwell’s book on Gen. David Petraeus.)

You don’t have to look far to hear contradictory complaints, that the paper is too local, or it’s too informed by a “Beltway perspective.” Former Post correspondent Anthony Shadid told Scott Sherman in 2010 that “the paper I joined in 2003 is not the paper I left in 2009. I say that as a foreign correspondent. It’s a paper that was about Washington in the end.”

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