City Desk

Breaking: Reported Dismissals at Post Web Site

Multiple sources are reporting that several employees at washingtonpost.com are losing their jobs as part of the merger of the site with the main Washington Post newsroom. Several of dot-com's editorial staffers as well as some non-editorial workers are among those who've gotten the ax, according to the sources.

City Desk is not printing names just yet. We've contacted several allegedly dismissed employees but have not yet received direct confirmation from them.

When asked if the Web site has laid off employees, Washington Post spokesperson Kris Coratti responded with this statement: "As part of the work we’re doing to turn around the business that supports our journalism, there were a small number of individual positions eliminated as a result of efficiencies we have found through our new structure and through new technology, and those have taken place both in print and online."

A top Post official cautioned against using the term "layoff" to describe reductions at washingtonpost.com, insisting that any dismissals are "targeted" at duplication of work between the Web site and the newsroom.

Washingtonpost.com is part of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, the Post Co.'s online publishing subsidiary. The site's employees and those of the main newsroom are in the middle of a merger operation that promises to end more than a decade of separation. Since washingtonpost.com launched in 1996, it has been located in Arlington, the better to allow it to explore the possibilities of the Internet unburdened by newsroom curmudgeonliness.

There's a labor dimension to all this as well. Putting washingtonpost.com in Arlington saved Post officials the hassle of dealing with a union for its Web site workers. Now that the merged operation will be located in D.C., any dot-com staffers who make the move are possible card-carrying union members.

Though the divide helped to incubate a fine Web site, this is 2009: No longer can a media company afford to have its limbs scattered about the region. The parallel operations on opposite sides of the Potomac River did indeed spawn some duplication of functions, and the Post these days is all about zeroing out redundancies.

However, it's unclear at this point whether the dismissals now afoot at washingtonpost.com all fall into the efficiency-reaping category. More reporting must be done. Stay tuned.

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  • edward

    It's typical of the Post that the most productive and innovative employees are let go, while favored and long-pampered retreads are dragged in from the newsroom to take their seats. Here's a group that enthusiastically pieced together the Washington Post's internet presence in the days when the newspaper's editorial department scoffed at the idea of Internet presence. The innovators made it into one of the top newspaper spots on the Internet, and even challenged the NYT some days. But now they want to merge the operations, and it's the innovators who are let go, and the uncreative slugs who ran the print product now take over.

  • k

    Of course they cautioned against using the term "layoff." Mike Wise was bragging on his radio show a few days ago about how generous the Post is to their staffers, using the lack of layoffs and generosity of buyouts as an example. Well, that generosity doesn't extend to the former WPNI online staff, and never has. These aren't the first layoffs in that shop, and no one in Arlington has ever been offered a buyout.

    Meanwhile, the dinosaurs in the print newsroom are rolling out 20th-century innovations for the Web site like customizable weather on the local home page (don't all the local readers have the same weather?) and e-mail alerts of breaking news.

  • MarlenaL

    Many retired Posties who took generous buyouts in 03, 05, 08,09 are still in the office on equally generous monthly contracts, taking up space. the recent "fisticuffs" involving Henry Allen was the first some readers/staffers learned of buyout takers remaining as nonemployees, supervising employees--even the fed. government does not permit this! The presence of these dinosaurs has kept the Post from hiring/promoting deserving staffers. Get rid of the deadwood and let the WPNI people stay and do the work?

  • So True

    When the online newsroom and print newsrooms "merge," it's always the online people who get the ax.

  • Sideshow Mel

    For many years, The Post's website was doing nothing more than posting the print articles, and hosting some online chats. But the web operation has this huge, spacious office to place things on the Internet, while the much-despised MSM reporters and editors were crammed together into an old, crappy space while actually doing the business of obtaining information and writing it. "the most productive and innovative employees," don't make me piss my pants. It's amazing how many people don't understand what journalists do. They get the actual information. Putting it on the Internet is nice, but not innovative, and definitely not as important as actual reporting, in the scheme of things.

  • jf1

    "The parallel operations on opposite sides of the Potomac River did indeed spawn some duplication of functions, and the Post these days is all about zeroing out redundancies."

    Spare me. You want to talk about "redundancies", let's look at the content of the website and the paper edition, combined. Even if it's "fair and balanced", 50% of it can be thrown out immediately as anti-Obama tripe. The rest, likewise, can be pared down from a mass of pro-Obama tripe. Now let's compare the website to the paper, who loses there?

    The main function of the wp site is that it puts a fresh spin on local and national news as well as opening up the enterprise for reader feedback and on-site discussion, and clearly what has happened is a classic power-grab by the upper levels of the paper management as they trade-away the last vestiges of their fading relevance to snatch away the growing, profitable and trendy website in an attempt to remain relevant in 2009. Yes, in 2009. It's like...Dan Snyder selling his housing stock in Florida and California to buy a winning football team in the Nations Capital in the middle of a recession. The recently-departed get a check for a job well done and decent references as long as they don't get bitter and bad-mouth the new powers in their old jobs. But at least they get to watch the new bosses screwup their site from the outside, so when it also folds in the spirit of "eliminating redundancy" they can avoid getting the splatter on their shoes. Might even help them to get a raise somewhere down the line.

    Only question is, can a media outlet have too many websites? We'll see. Certainly they can have too many papers ;)

  • edward

    Sideshow Mel: I cannot believe that you wrote those comments on a Web site. Reporters who go out and get information are yesterday's news. It is all showcasing and presentation today. Report whatever you want, but if no one reads it, it doesn't do much good. That's the problem with the print reporters sitting in that "old, crappy space" at 15th and L. Actually, not so crappy as the Post newsroom is open, spacious and sized about the same space as a Nimitz aircraft carrier's flight deck.

  • Pam

    The only reason that any of the online people are not able to do more is because the people at the newspaper are telling them exactly what they can and can't do. That's a great way to lead innovation. Tell people to stop doing anything that shows any type of promise. Change happens people and you can keep acting like these online people are morons or you can actually just admit that these people are brilliant and you're just worried for your job.

    The post is a joke.

  • robert barrett

    Edward is right. Google, which does not have a single reporter on its staff, made $21 billion last year in advertising for the stories it ran. And Drudge, who has never reported a story that I know of, is a multi-millionaire from aggregating stories. The money is in the showcasing of the content, not the content. Look at Fox News.

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  • dcblackdaddy

    Look for my youtube,facebook and other great editorials near future and then I reveal my true identity, if I do not get axed by the people wanting different content.

  • mark

    This is nothing compared to the poor schleps working for the Post's community papers in suburban Maryland. The non-union reporters don't even make 30k to start and the good ones are lucky to hit the mid-40s. Yet they are expected to crank out at least double the copy of their Post counterparts who write maybe a story a week. Go here to learn more
    http://maryland-politics.blogspot.com/2008/09/starting-gazette-salary-in-perspective.html

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  • Sideshow Me

    Edward said: "Reporters who go out and get information are yesterday's news." So where do you think the information comes from? Does it just magically appear? Do you have a clue what journalists actually do? (And you've never been in the Post newsroom if you think it's open and spacious.)
    And it's great for Google that they don't have a reporter. So what will they do when there are no more reporters to provide them information (for free)? Does anyone understand the concept of how news is reported, or do you think computers just fabulously divine it from...well, wherever computers get their shit from, I guess.
    And Mark makes the great point: the people doing the reporting at the lowest level, the most elemental work, are getting paid crap. While people who "aggregate" their work make millions. City Paper does actual reporting too (most of the time). Their people get paid crap too. And they work hard. They churn out good, valuable stories for us. Check things out, make phone calls, deal with actual humans. We sit here and suck our thumbs and give them no credit at all.

  • edward

    Sideshow me: I own a couple of stocks and follow them sufficiently to read the PR Newswire releases involving them. Then I read the WSJ or other stories covering developments in these stocks, and _ guess what _ I read the PR Newswire again, sometimes verbatim. So, yes, I know what reporters do.

  • A real live reporter (endangered species?)

    Edward - you have just proven yourself clueless.

    Sideshow Me, I'm with you. All this bla bla bla about presentation, aggregation and innovation will be all that's left once there are no more reporters churning out actual stories. Errh, I think it's now called "original content." It's sad and a little baffling that so few people understand this.

  • Sideshow Mel

    The PR Newswire. That is hilarious. Press releases by the companies themselves. "yes I know what reporters do."
    No, I don't think you do.

  • Tim Prendergast

    Speaking of downsizing, is the CP going under? Did anyone else notice that there was no CP in print this week? No announcement, nothing!

  • Rich

    The merger is obviously a business decision and business doesn't like dissenting voices--witness the non-renewal of Dan Froomkin's contract. Froomkin famously questioned the old boy ways of the mainstream media. The merger so far has meant more fluff on web features like the Wonkette/Carlson food fight chats and the disappearence of many actual journalists. the Post still has not figured out how an integrated web-print paper should operate.

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  • http://blogs.reuters.com/robert-macmillan/ Robert MacMillan

    SideshowMel is incorrect when he (she?) suggests that the website operation doesn't do reporting. I worked there and did reporting just like it's done at any other news outlet. Saying otherwise reveals gross ignorance and demeans what I and the good people there have been doing for years.
    Robert MacMillan

  • Ken Sands

    Not sure what happened here. There's likely a back story. But the systematic dismantling of the old wpni crew is puzzling. I have judged journalism contests several times, and the reason washingtonpost.com USED to win with regularity was because of the quantity and, yes, quality of innovative, web-original content.
    Quality content leads to increased traffic, which translates into industry-leading revenue.
    In judging a website, I paid no attention to repurposed print content. The wpni crew did tons of original work with, what, a staff less than 10 percent the size of the print staff? They led the industry in understanding the need for immediacy, interactivity, multimedia storytelling and database utility. And they knew this years ago.
    Now, they need innovators to figure out how to exploit the unique attributes of mobile devices. Who's left?
    Creating original content for different devices is not a matter of "platform-agnostic" journalists doing the same old stuff.

  • Robert Mackey

    Both the Emmy-winning Travis Fox and Pierre Kattar have been doing excellent original reporting in video form for years on the Post's Web site. If the people complaining here about their work not being "actual reporting" haven't even seen it, and work at the newspaper, that's about all you need to know about their qualifications to comment. Wait till they learn about the invention of tele-vision.

  • J

    Tim - you must have just found a box where they were all taken or one that wasnt delivered to. A paper definitely went out, there was anew one with fridays date in front of my office as of yesterday.

    Try a metro stop- they sometimes have multiple boxes

  • annoyed

    Anyone paying attention -- and in my experience many print people never looked further than the treatment of their byline on the site -- would have seen countless demonstrations on quality, original and award-winning content on a daily basis at wpni. It was always amazing when you encountered many print journalists who could only tell you a fraction of what had been on the site and had missed most of the amazing work being cited. And, more than anything, it's this kind of "real" journalist nonsense that has crippled the post.

  • Digiman

    First of all, there's nothing particularly sacred about a Web job. Some of them are good, some of them are no doubt slackers and incompetent. They don't have union protection, so it makes sense for the Post to weed out the nonproductive before putting them under that umbrella, using the excuse of a reorganization. Don't shed too many tears -- the Webby types are better positioned to get jobs at a competitor. And those dinosaurs in the print newsroom had best keep an eye over the shoulder -- they're next. Though, of course, there have been plenty of them eased out over the past year. You can pitch it as Web v. print, and that's just the way owners and management likes you all, divided and bickering among yourselves.

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  • http://blogs.reuters.com/robert-macmillan/ Robert MacMillan

    Rereading the comments today, I'm dismayed to see that Sideshow Mel, while being wrong as wrong can be about what the Web staff does, it right as right can be about journalism. I wish people who knock the "mainstream media" would remember that it's true: the reporting doesn't come from somewhere. You have to pay someone to spend all day (and all night, seven days a week) to get it and report it. Mel's detractors say that the Web presentation matters. That's true too. That's why this is a tragedy; the Web and the print folks at the Post should work together, and one should not vanquish the other. The Post, if it wants to get out of its money pit, needs all these talented people. They've cut deeply already; doing more isn't surgical, it's harmful.

    On a frivolous note: The Post newsroom at 1150 15th. It's spacious and it's cramped at the same time. There, that's one argument settled.

  • http://blogs.reuters.com/robert-macmillan/ Robert MacMillan

    I wrote two typos into my comment. I meant to say "is right as right can be," not "it right as right can be." I also wrote "the reporting doesn't come from somewhere." I should have written, "the reporting doesn't come from nowhere."

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  • Sideshow Mel

    And Robert is right that there has been quality journalism done by the people at WPNI. Travis Fox in particular is very good. I should've made that clearer when I said the site "was" only posting print stuff years ago. But most of the posters here simply want to whack The Post for whatever reason, and have no clue what it actually does. "I read the PR Newswire, I know what reporters do." It sucks that WPNI people are getting laid off. But plenty of print people have already been shown the door, and more are headed that way. No one's vanquishing anyone.

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  • http://girlstocks.com/ Bibi

    I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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