‘Wash Post’ Web Editor Expects Merged Newsrooms

By: Joe Strupp

The Washington Post’s Web editor, James Brady, is prepared to merge his online newsroom with the Post’s main newspaper staff once incoming executive editor Marcus Brauchli takes over.

With Brauchli adding oversight of the Web operation to the top editor position upon his arrival in September, Brady says melding the two parts of the paper is a natural.

“There is not much speculation about it,” says Brady, who spoke for the first time since Monday’s announcement that Brauchli would become the new newsroom boss. “We have decided that having separate newsrooms has reached the end. We have gotten as much out of it as we can. We need to be in one building so we can learn what the other does….

“No decision has been made, but I think there is an agreement that we need to be together somewhere. We have not talked about where,” says Brady. “We have talked conceptually about it.”

Brauchli, who met with both the Post’s online and print staffs on Tuesday, is credited with bringing together the Web and print operations of The Wall Street Journal during his time there as managing editor. He served in that role for about a year prior to leaving in April.

Speaking to E&P Wednesday, Brauchli declined to provide specifics for how his oversight of the Post Web operation might change things. But he said: “I have confidence the Post has tremendous talent and working with that talent on the print and Web sides, we will serve the audience better.”

On his Journal Web/print efforts, Brauchli stated: “I melded the newsrooms and it worked tremendously well. It showed that they can work together.”

The Post Web site, washingtonpost.com, has been in existence since 1996, when it launched in a building next to the Post’s Washington headquarters. Brady worked at the site from its inception through 1999, when he went to America Online. He returned in 2004 and has been credited with helping the Web site become one of the leading online newspaper outlets and frequent winner of E&P’s “EPpy” awards.

For most of its time, however, the Post web operation has been outside Washington, in Arlington, Va. The Web team, with some 100 news staffers and about 300 total employees, is located in the top four floors of a high-rise office building there.

In recent years, Brady had not reported to current executive editor Leonard Downie Jr., but instead to Caroline Little, who was CEO and Publisher of Washington Post Newsweek Interactive. Little left that post in April, switching Web oversight to Publisher Katharine Weymouth.

As part of the Brauchli appointment, however, the Web site will come under the executive editor position, a move Brady says is not a problem.

“The issue isn’t who I report to, but that I have access to the person,” Brady told E&P. “Marcus has had plenty of experience on the Web. He is not coming in without experience in or knowledge of the Web.”

Brady’s willingness to try new ideas and break new ground on the Web — from blogs to visual and audio approaches — has drawn many of the accolades the site has received. Among those are the site’s popular chats with writers, editors, and in many cases, celebrities.

He says he is not worried that such a merger will stifle those Web-style efforts. “Most of the people in the paper have bought into the idea that the Web is different,” Brady said. “I don?t think it is going to be that hard. I am not worried about anything. I am pretty comfortable that I will have a job that interests me and challenges me.”

But with any merger or consolidation comes concern about job cuts, especially at a time when the Post has just seen the buyout of more than 100 newsroom staffers.

Brady remained positive on how his staff might be affected. “People at the newspaper and people at the Web site have pretty distinctive skills,” he said. “You have to look at staffing like anywhere else, but I am not going to worry about it at this point.”

Brady declined to speculate on when a merging of the newsrooms might occur, saying only: “conversations will begin when Marcus gets here in September. At that point, it is just a matter of working the deal.”

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