By: Joe Strupp
When Philip Bennett takes over as the new managing editor of The Washington Post in January, don’t expect major changes right away.
But, when things do evolve under Bennett, expect an easier-to-navigate paper, expanded foreign coverage of life and issues beyond Iraq and the Middle East, and new ways to work with the Post’s already exploding Web page.
“I think there is a consensus that we have to continue to change to get better,” said Bennett, 45, who comes to the job from his current five-year post as assistant managing editor for foreign news. “We are seeing a whole set of areas of coverage that are extremely challenging — from Iraq to here in Washington.”
Bennett replaces Steve Coll, who is stepping down to pursue book projects.
Bennett came to the Post seven years ago from The Boston Globe, where he served as a foreign correspondent, metro editor, and foreign editor. He said his extensive international experience would not spark a major upheaval in overseas coverage. But he hinted that non-Middle East issues would likely be explored more than they have been.
“There are areas in global change that we haven’t been able to get to, such as the global environment, health and the economy,” Bennett told E&P.
The San Francisco native, who graduated from Harvard University and is married to a Georgetown University professor, said making the paper better organized and more accessible is always a reader priority and one he hopes to help improve. He also cited a need to make as much use of the paper’s award-winning Web site as possible.
“The Web has had such an influence on news,” Bennett explained. “It is important to look at how much information is out there and that readers can have one source for information.”
A Post piece by Howard Kurtz on Saturday announcing Bennett’s promotion revealed that a number of staffers were disappointed that three other top contenders, including assistant managing editor Eugene Robinson — who would have been the paper’s first black managing editor — were passed over. “Some staffers say they don’t know much about Bennett,” the story stated, noting that some staffers expressed a feeling of uncertainty.
Bennett admitted that he needed to get to know the staff after years of dealing primarily with foreign correspondents in other countries. But he told E&P time would take care of that. “Newsrooms are great community places and we have a common language of journalism,” he said. “Just participating in that daily process will get them to know me.”