City Desk

Post ’Scripts: Advice—Lots of Advice—for Jeff Bezos

KindleNothing is given as freely as advice, especially when a group as historically opinionated and underpaid as journalists is doing the giving. We asked various journo types, from public radio hosts to media empire queens, to offer Jeff Bezos their two cents on how to run the Post. Normally we’d advise the owner to stay the hell out of editorial operations. Now we ask Bezos to ignore that advice so he can follow all this advice on how to meddle most effectively.

Stop printing the paper Monday to Saturday or at least drastically reduce the number of printed copies. Offer a free Kindle to anyone who buys a two-year digital subscription and only print the Sunday paper. —Guy Raz, host of NPR’s TED Radio Hour

The world’s biggest economy (not to mention the capital of the world’s biggest economy) has room to field more than two global dailies, so the Washington Post should wade in and pick its battles in the right markets. Using the logistics expertise of Amazon, it should buy Mitsubishi’s new, smaller, and cheaper slim-line presses and print out of D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco for the U.S. market and do international out of London, Dubai, Tokyo, and Bangkok. Yes, it should still do print and move to better paper, a more relevant trim size and charge accordingly for what could be the U.S.’s most intelligent, relevant daily. At the same time, it should create a flagship weekend edition that sets the tone for the week for both readers and advertisers. —Tyler Brûlé, editor-in-chief and chairman of Monocle.

offsetSince last year the Post has published e-books around its coverage of Bryce Harper, Osama bin Laden, Keystone XL, and so on. But Bezos’ love of big data and the long view—the man’s building a 10,000-year clock in a Texas mountain—demands a bigger strategy. Digitizing stories back to the Post’s founding in 1877 would bolster its weakened prestige and help make it a go-to spot for researchers of all stripes. Profitability? Did I mention the man’s building a 10,000-year clock in a Texas mountain? —Mark Athitakis, Washington City Paper contributing writer

Fire Richard Cohen. —Mike Riggs, The Atlantic Cities reporter

The first thing Jeff Bezos should do is start to bring the incredible level of consumer engagement that he created at Amazon to the paper. I’ve always said the future of journalism is going to be a hybrid future—one that combines the best tools of traditional media, like accuracy and fairness and fact-checking, with the best tools of the digital world, like speed and engagement. Journalism is moving from a mode of presentation to participation. That’s what Bezos brought to retail and I expect that’s what he’ll continue to do with the Washington Post. —Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, Huffington Post media group

Hire a second film critic. It’s true that six staff film critics or whatever they had back in the day was probably too many. But a consistent second voice in there next to Ann Hornaday would make their film coverage much more of a must-read. —Dan Kois, Slate senior editor

Fire Richard Cohen. —Jonathan L. Fischer, Washington City Paper managing editor

Simply put: Stop the presses. Or makes plans for the inevitable day when digital will be the predominant way that readers experience the Post. To do so, push further with top talent into Internet-only content. This does not mean that print will never be used, but when it is, it should be done with care and circumstance .—Kara Swisher, co-executive editor of All Things D

Something that needs to be done soonest: curated editions for the smartphone and tablet, so that those platforms are explored to their fullest and that the glorious brand of the Washington Post can be guaranteed to stay around for a long time, offering us the type of storytelling that has already changed history. —Mario R. García, CEO/Founder of García Media and design consultant for the Washington Post

One-click ordering for a la carte articles, 15 cents each. —Ryan Kearney, New Republic story editor

Outsource Wonkblog to actual wonks. Wonkblog, the Post's enormously popular section devoted to bite-sized, charts-and-graphs driven policy analysis, can be a useful source for summaries of legislative debates. It can also be a platform for partisan, empirically shoddy, nonpeer-reviewed researchmisleading graphs, and journalists who get basic definitions of statistics wrong. The solution: outsource all of Wonkblog to actual economists, political scientists, and analysts from places like the Congressional Budget Office, and readers will soon see how boring and circumspect rigorous policy analysis actually is.*
* To their credit, Wonkblog already has a regular feature called "Poli Sci perspective" written by actual political scientists, and the quality of its data analysis is noticeably better than the rest of Wonkblog. Even though they sometimes get their headlines wrong. —Mike PaarlbergWashington City Paper contributing writer, Ph.D. candidate in political science at Georgetown University

Three words: More. Gene. Weingarten. Specifically his use of milk of magnesia and trips to the Apple Genius Bar. And stop the technological nightmares. When I click on a WaPo, my iPhone starts smoking and is operational again an hour or two later. This can’t be normal.—Betsy Rothstein, editor, FishbowlDC

Fire Richard Cohen. —Jason Cherkis, Huffington Post reporter

BoxingGlovesIsolatedInstitute weekly intramural boxing matches at the Post. Marquess of Queensberry rules? Nay—Henry Allen rules. —Ted Scheinman, Washington City Paper contributing writer.

I’d like to see the Post inject energy and enthusiasm into its local arts coverage. The paper has more good writers than duds—though it has those—but the arts coverage in the Post rarely feels like a necessary read to me. With some work (mostly I’d just like to see more reporting and fewer think pieces) the Post’s arts coverage could take its rightful place: second to Washington City Paper. —Andrew Beaujon, reporter for Poynter Online and former managing editor of Washington City Paper.

The list of publications that refuse to use the actual name of Washington’s local NFL franchise continues to grow. However, members of that club are not often known for their dedicated football coverage. Bezos could change that. The Post’s sportswriters might fear that their intimate familiarity with the Pigskins would be jeopardized or even revoked if the paper were to suddenly take a stand against a racist moniker. But under Bezos’ ownership, Dan Snyder is no longer a billionaire to fear. In fact, Jeff Bezos could buy 25.2 Dan Snyders.

Oh, and fire Richard Cohen. —Benjamin R. FreedWashington City Paper contributing writer

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  • Andy

    "Fire Jennifer Rubin" 0 of 0

  • http://orionadvert.com Susan Bodiker

    Re-design the website so that it is more intuitive and intelligent. Right now it is an incoherent mess, impossible to navigate. And re-hire the copy editors. The typos and errors that appear every day eat away at the publication's credibility.

  • Typical DC BS

    Ho Hum. The City Paper still whining about the name REDSKINS. Too bad their political correctness isn't relevant.

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  • Mark

    Give it all away for free online and give away Kindles to anybody who will ante up for a paid sub. Ask the guys at the Philadelphia Inquirer how that strategy is going for them.
    The problem isn't the print edition. The problem is giving it away for free online. The Post needs to kick the "information is free" habit because producing it is actually very, very expensive.

  • Typical DC BS

    @Mark: You've hit the nail on the head! Problem is, the current writers and staff costs will make on-line subscriptions way too expensive for most people, continuing the downward spiral. Post employees better be prepared for major income hits!

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