Endangered Species at WaPo: Editors

Endangered Species at WaPo: Editors was originally published on City Desk on Apr. 10, 2009, at 1:23 pm

If you’re an editor at the Washington Post, don’t get too comfy at your desk. Because your bosses may be getting ready to move you.

A wide-ranging editorial reorganization is afoot at the paper, and staffers are busy exchanging whatever details they can pick up. But they’re hard to come by. Several top editors confirmed that the plan is coming soon but get touchy when pushed on details.

“I think people in the newsroom are going to be quite happy with the choices of the people who are going to be leading the paper,” says Peter Perl, a top newsroom official. “That’s really as far as I can go.”

All week long, sources in the newsroom have speculated that an announcement on the editorial reconfiguration could come as soon as today. But Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and others apparently have too many fine points to nail down before making anything official. Brauchli passed an inquiry about the changes to spokesperson Kris Coratti, who wrote via e-mail, “We don’t comment on rumors.”

One element that appears certain for inclusion in the plan is a “universal” editing hub for much of the newsroom—a super-high-energy locus of editors and specialists who can process news copy and transmit it via blogs, Tweets, online articles, and print stories as well. Unclear at this time is how many topical areas of the Post —i.e., Metro, Style, Sports, Business, etc.—will feed this multimedia sweatshop. Sections that already have expertise in feeding multiple platforms, for example, could remain pretty much intact.

Once all the hubbing and platforming is done, there’ll likely be fewer editors touching copy at the 700-strong Post newsroom. Under the current configuration, assistant managing editors (AMEs) lord over a vertigo-inducing hierarchy of deputy editors, assignment editors, assistant editors, and so on. The changes now under consideration would flatten that setup, creating more or less two distinct classes of editors: Those who assign stuff in the various sections and those who take custody of it in the newsroom’s hub.

Somewhere along the chain of custody, the paper’s now-mighty AMEs would lose a chunk of their portfolio, because workers in the hub would presumably respond to another manager, not to mention the demands of all those killer platforms they’d be serving.

Post brass is reportedly working overtime on the plan so that editors can take a close look. Details are critical because some editors are now evaluating the buyout that the paper announced in late March. How can these people make a reasonable decision on the buyout if they don’t know their hub status?

Joe Kahraman, a rep with the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, which represents Posties, says the company has moved “very quickly” to present the buyout package to editor-level personnel at the paper. That’s the best indication yet that the Post is targeting its editor ranks for shrinkage in this fourth round of buyouts since 2003.

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