Accuracy in Media

Last week I wrote about the latest round of buyouts at The Washington Post and the potential long-term effects they would have on the newspaper.

Yesterday, Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton weighed in on the buyouts and expressed his concern about the direction of the paper should the paper reach its buyout target.

Pexton noted that this is a targeted buyout, meaning that while the aim is to reduce the headcount in the newsroom, not all departments are eligible to participate.

But Pexton is concerned that the areas that are targeted will have a detrimental effect on the Post and could possibly change the direction of the paper going forward.

But in looking at this buyout, I worry that The Post is moving away from local news and toward a publication that covers only national politics and government and the Redskins, one that relies too much on columnists.

According to Pexton, the Metro section, which covers local news in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, could lose up to 9% of its staff while the special investigative unit would in essence be gutted, with the possibility of losing more than 40% of its staff.

Luckily for its readers, the Post has apparently learned its lesson from previous buyouts and doesn’t plan to seek a reduction in copy editors, at least not in this round. Previous cutbacks that included editors led to a string of grammatical and spelling errors, as well as factual errors, that were rather embarrassing to a paper of the Post’s stature.

Pexton wasn’t all gloom and doom as he noted that the Post’s newsroom is still one of the largest in the country. But that’s of little solace to those who will be losing their jobs, and even those left behind who will have to wonder how secure their jobs are as well.

The buyouts may be necessary to help restore profitability to the print side of the company, but they are just small band-aid approaches to the much larger problem of how they will make money with the printed page in a digital world.

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