The Washington Telegram, the daily in The Solomon Scandals, is where good stories so often go to die—for example, the news that a major advertiser has built a rickety high-rise, which, if it falls, could squish more than than a few IRS workers.
In real life, though, let’s hope that newspapers can cut it, despite their flaws. I’m hardly ecstatic to learn that The Washington Post is killing off its last domestic news bureaus—in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. The executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, says: “We have for years been able to cover issues around the country for our readers with a corps of traveling reporters…” The Post’s forte, he says, is to cover the news “through a Washington prism.”
But wait. Howard Kurtz, the Post’s own media writer, wonders about the loss of “knowledge and experience of reporters who come to understand the local issues, personalities and culture of other regions by living there.” Exactly. Freelancers can help fill the gap, but like reporters “parachuted” in, they aren’t the same as committed long-term staffers familiar with the territory. Maybe the Post needs to spend less on multimedia and more on old-fashioned legwork Beyond the Beltway, despite its admirable goal of strengthening local coverage. Look, I run an e-book site these days and am hardly down on high tech. But could the Post have its priorities all screwed up?
The Post, alas, won’t be the only loser here. So will the politicians and other decision-makers who depend on the Post for news—and the rest of us who, in turn, will suffer if the decisions are wrong. Isn’t the full story more important than a “Washington prism,” especially when the Power People may have been misinformed by their own people in the field?
In particular, what about the cast-off New York bureau and Wall Street? Is the Washington Post going to trust other media and the SEC to tell us what’s going on there—as opposed to cultivating sources faces to face in the Big Apple itself?