TPM and the Washington Times: web breaks news about news before it happens

There isn’t much doubt that online journalism trumps print these days in reporting breaking news, but Talking Points Memo proved Wednesday afternoon that the web is even more adept at breaking news about news. According to an article filed at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday afternoon on the TPM site (tweeted speedily by Romenesko) , the vice president for human resources at the Washington Times sent out an e-mail at 2:45 p.m. (a mere 30 minutes before TPM’s story) calling for an “all staff meeting (all employees) that will be held in the Ballroom today at 3:30 p.m.”

TPM didn’t know much more — the last line of the brief read, “As always, we’ll tell you more when we know it.” — but that could have been because the meeting hadn’t even happened yet.

At 3:50 p.m., TPM filed another article — this time with news. According to the story, the Times’ publisher Jonathan Slevin announced the paper would be reducing its 370-member staff by as much as 40 percent (this, though, is hearsay — TPM wrote this figure was “according to a source who attended an afternoon staff meeting.” But that’s what you get when news breaks this fast). These layoffs could occur within the next 60 days (according to “two newsroom sources”).

In a statement, the Times also revealed plans to distribute its local edition free of charge in selected areas and “expand the recently-launched”

Distributing free copies of its print edition might not solve the monetary conundrum at the Times, but when online sites can publish stories about meetings before they happen, maybe the Times has the right idea in strengthening its web coverage.

And given that in the past month, the top editor at the paper resigned, three executives were fired and the former editorial page editor accused the paper of religious discrimination, maybe the Times will be able to report when it folds before anyone actually makes the decision.

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