New Washington Post opinion venture: 'This is not a Beltway publication'
The Washington Post plans to launch a new digital opinion venture called PostEverything Wednesday.
In an interview, its editor, Adam Kushner, said the new project would mostly seek contributors from outside the Post for what he said he hopes "will look a lot like a digital daily magazine" covering national politics and foreign policy as well as sports and entertainment. He's looking for regular contributors as well as one-offs from people itching to blast their thoughts into the "universe of ideas."
PostEverything will tackle stories that "The Washington Post is not necessarily currently equipped to service," Kushner said. By way of example: "OK, we’ve just discovered a new apocryphal Gospel in which Jesus had a wife," he posited. The response: “Let’s go call Reza Aslan and ask him to make an argument that this is totally in keeping with everything we know about the guy. That’s fun. That’s a lot of fun."
Kushner will report to Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt and Carlos Lozada, editor of the Post's Sunday opinion section Outlook. But he's also part of editorial, something Post spokesperson Kris Coratti said "is a new thing" in response to my question. Post Executive Editor Marty Baron and Managing Editors Emilio Garcia-Ruiz and Kevin Merida have helped kick around ideas.
"I see this as bolstering our opinion strategy," Hiatt said in an email to Poynter. The Post tries "to present the best, smartest, most original and independent commentary and analysis from left to right," he wrote. Kushner's venture will augment recent additions of what Hiatt calls "opinionated reporting" -- writers like Greg Sargent, Jennifer Rubin, Erik Wemple, Radley Balko and Alyssa Rosenberg among others -- with "a high-metabolism, fast-reacting site that will take these values of thoughtfulness married to timeliness to even higher levels."
PostEverything will work with Hiatt's and Lozada's sections, Kushner said: "There will be times when we debate, 'Oh, should I pick up this piece that you can’t?' and maybe what will happen more often is [Hiatt] will reverse publish out of my site."
While Kushner doesn't anticipate snagging a lot of Posties' bylines ("I certainly wouldn't say no"), he said the newsroom is a "very collaborative, collegial environment." While he stresses that, as the former executive editor of National Journal as well as an editor at Newsweek and The New Republic (and a Poynter writing fellow), he brings a "respectable Roladex" to the gig, because of the Post newsroom, "when what I really need is an email address for George Takei, it shouldn’t be a problem to get one."
Takei will probably not draw a check if he writes for PostEverything. "Where people are trying to make their living as writers I hope to be able to treat them as professionals," Kushner said. "For folks who make their living doing other things, and the Washington Post offers them an opportunity to project their voices into the public debate, that’s a sort of payment in kind." He'll search out "wonderful thinkers and writers across the academy, across various fields where they’re practitioners, who I think would be delighted for that opportunity."
PostEverything will be staffed by three editors, including Kushner. Amanda Erickson, formerly of The Atlantic Cities/CityLab, has joined as an editor at launch, and he's got one more position to fill. (Want to pitch a story or yourself? Hit them at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Kushner said his site will cover the Washington of marble columns and intellectual debates, but "nothing analogous to what the Metro section does" in terms of local stuff. And high-octane wonk content won't necessarily slot in, either: "I will have stories about politics and policy if I think they rise to the level where they can reach a national audience," he said. "My last job was editing a Beltway publication. This is not a Beltway publication."
The Post's homepage will feature PostEverything stories, which Kushner says will look different from other Post stuff, to emphasize that it's a different product and that many readers will land on "sideways" (it will have a homepage, though). Article pages will feature a "gesture at infinite scroll" in which readers will see display copy for other pieces at the bottom of what they're reading. Tim Wong and Joey Marburger worked on the design, he said.
Kushner seemed reluctant to reveal too much ambition for the site ("PostEverything’s not the story," he said. "Good pieces are the story"), but pressed on his wildest dreams for it, said it would be something "people feel compelled to read and they trust when they see the URL at the beginning of the story on social media or it gets emailed around." When readers see a story is coming from PostEverything, "they know it’s going to answer their curiosity about the world."