Why Washington Post featured blockbuster Romney story on Friday's front page, not Thursday's

The Huffington Post | The Washington Post

Jason Horowitz's story about Mitt Romney's high school days includes the eyebrow-raising news that as a teen, he and some friends held down a student they thought was gay and cut his hair off. Horowitz found five Romney classmates who remembered the assault:

A few days later, [Matthew] Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

That epic story was not in the Post's print edition Thursday, something I noticed when I sat down to read it on a coffee break after seeing much chatter about it on Twitter Thursday morning. Kevin Merida, the Post's national editor, told me in an email why:

We were mindful of both the flood of news coverage yesterday surrounding President Obama's same-sex marriage remarks and the desire to give the Romney campaign as much time as possible to respond. It's also just a very long and involved tale, sensitive and complex, and it needed to be edited to our collective satisfaction. So that was yesterday's decision. That said, in the competitive real-time journalism sphere we operate in, we felt it was best to publish it when it was ready. Our online and print audiences are both important, though not overlapping, and both will get the benefit of Jason's extraordinary piece.

I called him back and emailed to ask whether the piece was ready Wednesday night (it hit the Web around 8 a.m. Thursday morning). He responded, "For a variety of factors we chose to hold off publishing in Thurs. paper."

But Steven Ginsberg, the Post's political editor, suggested that it was ready. He told Michael Calderone that Post editors had decided "it was better not to have it in today's paper" because of Obama's statement Wednesday in favor of gay marriage.

"The stories aren't really about the same thing," Ginsberg added, "but the perception among some might have been that putting them together would have created an impression we didn’t want to create."

Well, here's an impression this Washington Post subscriber would like to create: Could we possibly get news that's ready the night before with the product we pay for? Thursday in print, Thursday online: It's the same day!

It's not as if holding it from the print paper was going to stop anyone inclined to believe the Post released the story maliciously anyway: The New York Times' Michael D. Shear wondered aloud whether Romney's high school antics were "fair game" decades later, a point knocked back by Erik Wemple: "That episode, and the culture of the school where it went down, make valuable additions to Romney’s biography," Wemple wrote. (Romney has apologized for the bullying.)

I can't be the only Post subscriber wondering why I'm paying for the print edition of the Post when something this important flies onto my porch a day after the political world has chewed it over and reacted already.

The front page of Friday's paper featured the story about Romney.
  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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