Washington Post

Career beat: Tracy Everding is creative director at All You

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Nia-Malika Henderson will write for The Fix at The Washington Post. Previously, she was a political reporter there. (Washington Post)
  • Jose DelReal is now a blogger for Post Politics. Previously, he was a reporter at Politico. (Washington Post)
  • Tracy Everding is now a creative director at All You. Previously, she was a creative director at Cosmo Magazine. (Time Inc.)
  • Amy Haneline is now a beer, wine and coffee reporter at The Indianapolis Star. Previously, she was a digital developer there. (‏@AmyBHaneline)
  • Kenny Plotnik is now vice president of New England Cable News. Previously, he was vice president of news at WABC in New York. (TV Spy)
  • Kat Meyer is now director of events and community engagement at Publishers Weekly. Previously, she was community manager and conference chair at the Frankfurt Book Fair. (Publishers Weekly)

Job of the day: The Associated Press is looking for a junior designer and front-end developer. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org Read more

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Katharine Weymouth

Katharine Weymouth’s resignation completes the close of the Graham era at the Washington Post

Katharine Weymouth (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Katharine Weymouth (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

In a word, unsurprising. Katharine Weymouth’s announced resignation today as Washington Post publisher simply completes the ownership change initiated a year and a month ago when Amazon’s Jeff Bezos bought the paper.

Neither Bezos nor Weymouth were commenting (even to the Post) about the circumstances and timing of the change, though the New York Times reported it was initiated by Bezos. My guess would have been that she had agreed to stay on for a transitional year as part of the sale, but perhaps she was trying out for a longer tenure with the new owner.

It is hard to call Weymouth’s six-plus years as publisher a success, but I wouldn’t say she failed in the job either.  She took control at the worst possible time in 2008 as the deep recession accelerated the precipitous decline of print advertising, especially at metro papers. She oversaw rapid-fire experiments with new revenue sources and a series of strategies for digital growth.  None of her initiatives turned the enterprise around — but then, who in a similar situation did?

This has been the era of “Riptide” (as a Harvard study project by three former media executives was titled).  A strong legacy brand may have been as much a liability as an asset in competition with digital disruptors. Staying afloat was an accomplishment.

Weymouth’s legacy will be twofold.  In December 2012, she took a clear-eyed look at her tenure and at the Post’s prospects and persuaded her uncle, CEO Donald Graham, that it was time for a new owner, a new vision and new capital to support a transition that will take years more.

Around that same time, she hired Martin Baron away from the Boston Globe as editor.  Knowing Baron well, I am not unbiased, but he is certainly one of the best editors of his generation, if not the best.

I heard of Weymouth (without knowing much of anything about her) more than a decade ago.  Someone told me that none of Graham’s four children was interested in succeeding him in the family business, but a niece was and was moving through business jobs at the paper in preparation.

Graham had done a similar apprenticeship (as have various Sulzbergers at the New York Times).  But a tour of departments with increasing responsibilities doesn’t exactly get an heir apparent ready the way it once did.

My own limited impressions of Weymouth were formed in several visits to Poynter in St. Petersburg (where her father is an accomplished architect) and several appearances at the annual conference of the Newspaper Association of  America, where she seemed to enjoy asking the questions as a moderator more than answering them.

A sharp intelligence was evident, but she was not much on the vision thing in public forums and revealed little about what she saw as the Post’s biggest business challenges or how she planned to deal with them.  Easy for me to say, but I am not sure, in retrospect, what the benefits of greater candor would have been.

Most accounts of Weymouth’s time (including the Post’s own this morning) will rate as her greatest blunder a plan to put advertisers together with Post editors and reporters in “salons.” at her home. I think that’s a bad rap.

A mashup of an events strategy with her grandmother’s legacy as a dinner party hostess, the effort launched with bad optics and was withdrawn.  But the Post quickly got back in the events business (where sponsorships are an easy sell compared to conventional advertising). Weymouth’s version doesn’t strike me as all that different from Atlantic Media owner David Bradley’s widely praised development of a-list events as an important revenue stream.

Amanda Bennett, a seasoned top editor as well as Don Graham’s wife, was ready with an effusive tribute to Weymouth, posted as a comment minutes after Poynter Online’s news story about the change.  Bennett’s focus is on Weymouth’s “courage” in fighting the good fight, then knowing when to take the painful step of ending family control.

The morning line on Weymouth’s successor, Frederick Ryan, seems to include musings about whether his early career as a Reagan aide augurs a Post move to the right editorially.  I doubt it. Bezos is no ideologue and, especially on foreign affairs, Fred Hiatt’s editorial page is fairly conservative already.

To my mind, the more relevant factoid is that Ryan comes from Albritton Communications,  a longtime Post competitor.  Way back in the day Washington Star provided decades of second-paper competition to the Post before it was sold by Albritton and subsequently shuttered in 1981.

Fred Ryan, Jr., (Photo by John Shinkle/POLITICO

Fred Ryan, Jr., (Photo by John Shinkle/POLITICO

More recently, without a legacy newspaper culture to work through, Albritton successfully launched Politico (of which Ryan was the founding president and chief executive) in 2007 — the very model of a smooth pivot to digital at a time when the Post was still stopping and starting, trying to find its way as a print + digital business.

Related:
Katharine Weymouth at Poynter in 2010: ‘You just keep plugging away’ Read more

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After new plagiarism allegations, Time magazine will review Zakaria’s work again

Our Bad Media

Time magazine will review Fareed Zakaria’s work after Twitter users @blippoblappo and @crushingbort accused the CNN journalist of lifting from a variety of publications, including Vanity Fair, Businessweek and the New Yorker.

Time magazine “takes the accusations seriously,” according to a statement from Daniel Kile, vice president of communications for Time Inc.:

In 2012, we conducted a review of Zakaria’s work for TIME and were satisfied with the results of that investigation. We will be reviewing these new allegations carefully.

Zakaria is the host of “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” a columnist for the Washington Post and was recently named a contributor to Atlantic Media. He was previously an editor-at-large for Time magazine.

Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of The Washington Post, called the new accusations “reckless” in a statement to Poynter:

“If I’m not mistaken, the newest allegations feature only one WP column, and when I looked at that I thought it was so far from a case of plagiarism that it made me question the entire enterprise. Take a look. Fareed uses some budgetary information that is also cited in a Center for American Progress report.”

The Post intends to keep Zakaria as a contributor and will not be conducting another review of his work, said Kristine Coratti, the paper’s director of communications.

The fresh allegations of plagiarism, which were posted to the blog “Our Bad Media,” unearthed 12 instances where some of Zakaria’s work closely resembles the work of others. Here are a few of the articles flagged in the post:

In addition to Time magazine, The Washington Post and CNN both conducted reviews of Zakaria’s work in 2012. All publications cleared him of further wrongdoing and reinstated him; Time magazine spokeswoman Ali Zelenko called the incident an “unintentional error,” and CNN said their review found “nothing that merited continuing his suspension.”

Related: Fareed Zakaria: ‘People are piling on with every grudge or vendetta’ | Fareed Zakaria says many journalists don’t attribute quotations | Fareed Zakaria suspended from Time, CNN for plagiarizing New Yorker story Read more

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ComScore: Users spend 60 percent of their digital media time with mobile platforms

— ComScore data indicates users spend 60 percent of their digital media time with mobile platforms, up from 50 percent last year. And “time spent on mobile apps is higher than any other digital medium, coming in at 51 percent,” CNET’s Dara Kerr writes.

— Version 2.0 of Jason Calacanis’ Inside app is here, Capital New York’s Johana Bhuiyan writes, with the realization that the real competition is Twitter, not other mobile news aggregators: “Out with the idea of a Pandora for news; in with readers ability to ‘follow’ topics they choose.”

— The Washington Post program to provide digital access to subscribers of other papers has an early success story, Michael Depp writes at NetNewsCheck: “The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that 7,000 of its subscribers signed on for free access to the Post’s digital content after only five days and one promotional email.”

— Rumor has it the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 – and maybe a 5.5-inch version, too — will launch Sept. 19, according to MacRumors.

— WaPo removed this requirement from a social media job posting this week: “ability to explain to those twice your age what Reddit or Snapchat or Whisper or Fark is.” The Post told American Journalism Review’s Lisa Rossi that the first ad was a “draft.”

— Digiday’s Lucia Moses explains GE’s news site, Pressing, which publishes stories from Vox and other news outlets as well as custom content from Atlantic Media Strategies. Nieman Lab’s Caroline O’Donovan notes the amazing extent to which GE is promoting its brand by jumping into sponsored content and custom publishing.

— GigaOM’s Lauren Hockenson highlights Buffer’s new app, Daily, which it bills as a “Tinder for news.”


// Read more

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Pedestrians walk past the main entrance to the Washington Post , Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Washington Post praises rival NYT for China story

The Washington Post

The Washington Post took the unusual step of praising its competitor, The New York Times, for the latter’s story on the wealthy relatives of one of China’s most prominent political figures.

The praise came in an piece by the Editorial Board posted Friday afternoon. The Times’ story, the editorial stated, “struck a welcome blow against an aggressive effort by Chinese authorities to censor such information not just from domestic media but also from the U.S. press.” Read more

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set of silhouettes of heads, highly detailed in black

Are pen names ever OK in journalism?

If your name is “Jason Huntmann,” then your name should be Jason Huntmann.

That’s the guiding principle I was operating under earlier this winter when I wrote about The Washington Post’s decision to pull down an op-ed piece after I questioned the author’s identity.

“Jason” had used the vaunted space of the Post’s opinion page to trash Washington, D.C., and its people, using a bad experience on our public transportation system as an illustration of everything that’s wrong with us.
The piece seemed far-fetched and over the top, and an odd choice for a self-described recent transplant to the city. Howdy, new neighbor! I hate you!

A statue of Molière, whose real name was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

The Post reached out to Jason to get another form of personal verification, but he never wrote back. The piece, “D.C., you’re depressing,” is staying down. Read more

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Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron complained to the New York Times about not crediting his paper. Times Public Editor Sullivan e-mailed with the Times’ associate managing editor for standards, Philip B. Corbett, about the issue. He replied:

One complication is that there’s no clear or simple rule on when and how to credit. When information reported by another news organization is not widely known and we haven’t been able to match it ourselves, we normally attribute it or link to the source. But in cases where we have done our own reporting, it’s less clear-cut. We still want to credit another news organization if they have done major enterprise or have unearthed a big story — something no one would have known about without that initial reporting. But for an ongoing story or beat — where lots of reporters are chasing the same story line and may break different elements at different times — it’s not always practical or useful to tell readers, well, this element was first reported by News Organization A, and this other part was broken by Organization B, and we were the first to report these other pieces, etc.

Margaret Sullivan, The New York Times

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knowmore_small

Viral strategy behind WaPo’s Know More blog won’t blow your mind; read this anyway

A two-month-old viral blog by The Washington Post (y’know, the venerable 136-year-old newspaper and venerable 17-year-old website) seems to have tapped into the shareable content trend of the moment.

And even if viral content’s a bubble bound to burst — thanks to Facebook interrupting its business model via algorithm changes or otherwise — the Post hardly has much to lose if Know More, a Wonkblog spinoff, doesn’t work out.

But if BuzzFeed and Upworthy manage to maintain full steam ahead, so too should Know More, which has adopted many of the two viral sites’ strategies, including engaging images, click-bait headlines (not necessarily pejorative), and a social media presence summed up in three words: Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.

“The most obvious similarity there is in targeting Facebook rather than Twitter,” said Dylan Matthews, the main reporter behind the blog, via phone. “If you look at any site that does well socially, there’s just a handful that get their traffic from Twitter. Journalists sometimes forget this because we tend to really like Twitter.”

(Ezra Klein explored journalists’ obsession with Twitter recently on Wonkblog.)

Indeed, Know More has a modest Twitter following — about 1,800 at @knowmorewp and 150 at @GnomeOar. On Facebook, it’s nearing 6,100 likes, far fewer than Klein’s 192,500 followers and the Post’s nearly 1.2 million likes. Matthews runs the Facebook page himself but leaves the Twitter feeds to update automatically.

Of course, Know More doesn’t operate independently from the Post; it draws lots of content directly from Wonkblog and other Post blogs. Meanwhile, the institutional social media accounts bring some valuable exposure, and the institution itself provides some instant credibility — credibility that BuzzFeed and Upworthy often unfairly lack, Matthews said. (He and Klein praised the sites over at Nieman Lab for understanding what readers want.)

Yet the site is also forging an identity distinct from the Post, evident from how the image-heavy grid look departs from the design of other Post blogs, which look more like the main site.

“There are certainly Post readers who go to washingtonpost.com and expect the physical newspaper as a website,” Matthews said. “Know More is very different from that, so I think there’s an appropriate separation.”

Matthews said he hasn’t yet cracked the code for what content will go viral — we can’t all be Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman, after all — but even the least successful posts provide loyal readers with some cool lessons about poverty rates or climate change, with referrals to outside sources, often experts in their fields.

A WaPo memo obtained in November by BuzzFeed, naturally, indicated Know More was the news organization’s most-read blog for the third week of October. Among the blog’s bigger early viral successes, which can account for a major share of an entire day’s traffic, according to Matthews:

“I haven’t studied Upworthy and BuzzFeed’s numbers with the talmudic precision I probably should,” Matthews said. “But the thing that’s been surprising us is how much a single thing can do.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Dylan Matthews’ name.

Related: Is viral content the next bubble? | Is Facebook’s latest News Feed algorithm really intended to save us from ourselves? Read more

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National Journal’s Ben Terris heads to WP’s Style

WashPost PR

Ben Terris, National Journal writer, announced on Twitter that he is joining The Washington Post’s Style section:

Washington Post Style Editor Frances Sellers and Eva Rodriquez, Style deputy features editor, said in a statement:

Ben comes to us from National Journal where in three years he rocketed from writing spot news to covering the conservative freshman class of 2010 and recently distinguished himself with a series of insightful political feature stories.

Terris has big shoes to fill; he succeeds Jason Horowitz, who joined The New York Times and whose stories at The Washington Post included the relevation of young Mitt Romney’s bullying of a student who he and his friends thought was gay. Read more

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Earns Washington Post

The Post’s sale — 7 thoughts on a week that shook the newspaper industry

The week of all-Washington Post, all-the-time has just about wrapped, and I’m reminded of a Mo Udall aphorism about hot issues of the day in the nation’s capital: Everything has been said, but not everyone has said it yet.
Weighing in late in the cycle, let me try to highlight a few takeaways going forward for the Post itself and the industry.

1. The era of the public newspaper company is winding down. Before the Post spun off its newspaper holdings, Media General, Belo and Scripps had already.  As noted in my first comment on the sale, you cannot justify to shareholders pouring money into a long and uncertain digital transition for newspaper organizations when other businesses (cable, broadcast and for-profit education for the Washington Post Co.) offer better return now and in the next several years.

That logic falls most heavily on Gannett, whose newspaper division is a drag on earnings and share price (though not a money loser like the Post).  Gannett is much bigger, booking more than $700 million in revenue annually from freestanding digital businesses and expanding a big local broadcasting division with the recent acquisitions of Belo’s stations.

Still, as Jim Hopkins’ Gannett blog has been reporting, the company is quietly cutting several hundred newsroom jobs this month as 2013 shapes up as yet another year of significant advertising revenue contraction.  The downsizing scenario will likely play out at other public companies (and some private ones too) who are running out of things like buildings and land to sell and don’t have the deep pockets of a Jeff Bezos.

2. The New York Times is not in play now but might be later. I was quoted accurately but incompletely in Paul Fahri’s Washington Post story speculating the Sulzbergers and the Times could be next in this series.

The New York Times Co. could come under similar pressure from family and public stockholders — but not right now and only if revenues and earnings take a huge turn for the worse over the next several years.  These are early days still for CEO Mark Thompson and the emerging outlines of his strategic plan — plus the company has $1 billion in the bank for investment in new initiatives,reinvestment in existing ones or weathering a few money-losing quarters.

I would also note that the Times has two huge strengths the Post does not and cannot hope to duplicate.  The success of its digital subscriptions and print-digital all access bundles are getting all the attention lately.  But don’t forget the brilliant 20-year drive to make the Times a national paper with subscribers all over the country paying $800-$900 a year — and making a very attractive affluent audience base for advertisers.

On the other hand, I am in the show-me camp that the Times’s global expansion ambitions will work.  Ask veterans of the print era European and Asian editions of Wall Street Journal what a slog those ventures ended up being.  And now in the digital era we have the examples of the Financial Times and Guardian — brilliant journalistic and audience successes but not exactly minting money.

3. Is there a backstory behind the official story of the sale?  Maybe.  The first account was that CEO Donald Graham and his niece, publisher Katharine Weymouth had talked during budget season last fall, concluded that further revenue losses were inevitable and were led to the logic seeking a suitable buyer.

The Post’s more detailed account of how the transaction came to be was different and more detailed on a crucial point.  It was Weymouth who proposed the sale, the Post reported, as an alternative to cutbacks in staff and news quality or continued losses.

So if you are Don Graham and the family member groomed for the publisher’s job and doing if now for five years comes to you and says the paper’s fundamental revenue problem hasn’t been solved and won’t be for the next several years, whatcha gonna do?

4. It is wonderful that billionaires see an opportunity in the newspaper business but…I also see a downside interpretation of the Post’s sale and the Boston Globe’s last weekend to Red Sox owner John Henry.  Neither the Globe nor the Post were late to digital or slouches at innovation. But neither has yet been able to generate enough new revenue to offset continuing print ad losses.

I would count among the disappointments of seven years of decline at the Post, the stall-out of effectiveness and pricing for online banners, new waves of ad migration to Google and other potent digital giants and the promising start and subsequent fizzle of the Post’s Facebook-based Social Reader.

New ownership resets a five-year clock for doing better, and in the case of Bezos, brings a proven digital innovator to the party.  But the decisions to sell also underscore that no one has yet cracked the case of inventing a new business model for getting through the print-digital era and then flourishing when print and its ad dollars have become irrelevant.

Put another way, if Jeff Bezos or another benefactor gave a newspaper company $250 million for digital development,  I don’t think management could spend it with confidence.  Lots of bold experiments bear watching — Salt Lake City, Orange County, Advance and Digital First  — but no high-odds, nearly proven option on which to place a big bet has emerged.

Curiously as the billionaires take their best shot, a new study in the works, provocatively titled Riptide, suggests that  the problem  may not be solvable by anyone. Produced by former Time Inc editor-in-chief John Huey and collaborators and scheduled for release in about a month, the thesis is Weymouth’s conclusion writ large:

Not even the strongest swimmer can handle the worst riptide, and the creative destruction of legacy news economics may end up overwhelming the best effort to find an alternative.

My colleague Tom Rosenstiel points out that Riptide is a curious metaphor for forces that have been emerging in plain sight for 20 years now, but I am eager to see how Huey and company make the case, previewed in an article in Fortune

5. Speculation about how Bezos will run the Post is natural but mostly feckless.  Okay, he is a fabulously successful digital entrepreneur.  Amazon has a news and publishing presence with the Kindle, a recent success with advertising and a bricks-and-mortar dimension with its warehouses and distribution. Bezos manages for long-term growth not quick profit. He is relentlessly customer-centric and gets data-mining..  So…

That is a great skill set (and don’t forget the deep pockets) to bring to the task at hand.  But is building Amazon more or less the same as turning around the Post?  That remains to be seen — and a week is way too early (I am guessing for Bezos as well) to figure out which principles transfer.

I do trust that he and his team will turnaround the Post’s improving, but notoriously balky digital interface.  I would also guess that Marty Baron will remain editor but that Weymouth’s role will be transitional.

6. Let’s pause to admire masterful public relations in handling this stunning and potentially devastating news.  They kept it secret.  Bezos’s brief memo (and Graham’s as well) was concise and hit all the right notes as my colleagues Butch Ward and Jill Geisler wrote earlier this week.

Bezos gave a short interview to the Post and has declined all requests for further comment.  Graham and Weymouth made sure to give the best stuff first to the Post (duh) including interviews on the just-launched PostTV video platform I wrote about two weeks ago.

Then Graham talked to important business publications and appeared to PBS’s  NewsHour, where Weymouth’s predecessor, Bo Jones, is president.  Wednesday evening he stopped.  (I asked for an interview but did not make the cut).

So he was out there, not ducking, but not overextended either.

And some seconding votes for the move came from surrogates like like former editor Len Downie and Woodward and Bernstein as the inquiries poured in.

7. Whose coverage was best? Well, the deluge of ink, pixels and broadcast suggests traditional media is not as dead as some would have you believe.  The usual suspects — New York Timnes, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and the Post itself — were all over the story quickly with multiple angles.  New media chipped in, and a great many Post staffers, past and current, added thoughtful and often touching personal takes.

My own top prizes (let’s call them the Ricky’s) would go to Reuters in the business division with stories on how much Bezos overpaid, possible personal tax benefits to him and  measured speculation on how he might run the company.

In a more general vein, I thought the New Yorker hit three home-runs in five at bats..

Editor David Remnick’s first assessment, led with a wonderful A.J. Liebling quote comparing media ownership changes to the plot of Black Beauty  — some generous masters, as one presumes Bezos will be, others brutal (think Sam Zell).

John Cassidy made the case that Bezos may be looking for influence at a time when  scrutiny of Amazon’s business practices and lobbying positions has been building. I am dubious about that being the heart of the matter, but I guess I don’t look for the Post to seize the momentum from the Morning Call of Allentown in exposes of working conditions at Amazon warehouses.

Finally Hendrick Hertzberg eloquently revisited the twice-told tale of of Graham’s Harvard Crimson days, followed by his volunteering for ground duty in Vietnam, then serving a stint as a D.C. policeman, before working up the ladder at the paper, all in the service of preparing to succeed his mother.  That’s where I began 40-plus years of knowing Graham and watching his work with admiration.  Privately he can be blunt — but mostly, he is, as you have read elsewhere, friendly, considerate, encouraging and really smart.

And in the crucible of last week, he showed, to no one’s surprise, extraordinary grace under pressure. Read more

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