Firing back at the New Republic’s Gabriel Sherman, Dana Milbank at the Washington Post is spot on when he says the death watch on the Post newspaper is premature. I’ve given my own two cents on survival strategies.
That said, Milbank needs to remember that the Washington Post Company’s priorities are less journalistic and more business-oriented than in the Watergate days.
Although the newspaper division’s outlook may have improved, its revenues are just a fraction of the total—18 percent in 2008. Could management pull the plug someday to focus on Kaplan? The matter isn’t just how well the Post newspaper will do. It’s also whether the company could fare still better with money invested in activities such as Kaplan, the big show. Notice that graphic from the parent company’s Web site? The Post image is just one of four, and as for Newsweek, also shown, it is hardly rolling in cash.
Granted, the parent company is raising dividends from $8.60 to $9 a year—a major point that Milbank makes. But maybe this is significant in the wrong direction for the Post newspaper. Why didn’t the money for the 40-cent boost go instead for online activities and other journalism to help L Street compete with the New York Times and others (chart is from Alexa)? And should the Post have even considered buying back stock, an encouraging sign as Milbank sees it, when news-related activities have been hurting? I’m rooting for the Post newspaper to thrive, and I still believe it can in the end, with the right strategies from within and from the parent corporation. Just what counts for “right,” however? The best journalism for readers or maximum profitability for shareholders of the parent company?