Bye lines: Washington Post shuts down U.S. bureaus

Only days after the Washington Post announced plans to cut members of its web staff, the paper indicated today it also intends to shutter its New York, Chicago and Los Angeles bureaus.

It’s been a rough few months for the paper. In the third quarter, the Post reported it had increased its profit by 69 percent — largely as a result of buyouts and cost-cutting. Despite this upward swing, profit from the Post’s Web site fell 18 percent in the quarter, which may have contributed to the Nov. 20 decision to lay off web staff. Post spokesperson Kris Coratti told Politico on Friday:

“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.”

Though the Post did not reveal its intention to close the three bureaus last Friday when it announced it was eliminating staff positions, the two decisions seem to be related — in an internal memo obtained by the Associated Press, Post management wrote:

To the Staff:

Today we have informed our news colleagues in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles that we are closing the offices in those cities, effective Dec. 31. The reporters in those bureaus are being offered new roles here in Washington. Regretfully, the three news aides, who have been dedicated colleagues and are friends of many here, will be let go.

At a time of limited resources and increased competitive pressure, it’s necessary to concentrate our journalistic firepower on our central mission of covering Washington and the news, trends and ideas that shape both the region and the country’s politics, policies and government.

We will continue to cover events around the country as we have for decades, by sending reporters into the field. We have a strong tradition of bringing understanding and authority to our coverage of politics and issues that matter, wherever the stories take us. The evidence is visible daily in The Post: our deeply reported narrative series on the human consequences of the economic downturn; our insightful coverage of the healthcare debate, from the efficient hallways of the Mayo Clinic to the raucous townhalls of last August; even the ongoing coverage of the Ft. Hood shootings or the impending 2010 midterm campaigns.

Our commitment to national news of interest to our readers is undiminished, and we will maintain the level and caliber of coverage our readers expect.

Marcus Liz Raju

Closing its remaining U.S. bureaus may be more efficient for the Washington paper, but the latest casualties also leave a gaping hole for other papers to fill. That is, if they haven’t started already — The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal began printing editions in San Francisco earlier this fall, and the Times just rolled out its first Chicago edition Nov. 20 — the same day the Post began its layoffs.

The good news is the six WaPo correspondents in LA, NY and Chicago are being reassigned to Washington and are not facing layoffs yet. But, having axed member of its web staff (isn’t this the digital age of news?) and shuttered all its other U.S. bureaus (isn’t this the hyperlocal age of news?), we wonder when the Post will decide a bureau in its own city is unnecessary, too.

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One response to “Bye lines: Washington Post shuts down U.S. bureaus

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