New 'Wash Post' Foreign Editor Plans More Enterprise

By: Joe Strupp The Washington Post's foreign staff plans to boost Middle East coverage, while also focusing more on enterprise and in-depth stories over breaking news in coming months.

"We will have at least half of our correspondents in the area from Jerusalem to Beijing," said Doug Jehl, who took over the foreign editor post from David Hoffman last month. "We are thinking through some of our deployments."

He adds that the 14-person overseas staff is not expected to increase, but may see some transferring to increase the presence in the middle east and far east areas.

"There have been, until now, about six correspondents there," Jehl said of the middle east and far east bureaus. "We are looking to add a seventh, eighth or ninth person and that will leave some bureaus unfilled, for a while."

Jehl's comments follow a trip he took to Istanbul, Turkey, last weekend with Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and Managing Editor Liz Spayd, to meet with foreign staffers and plan future coverage.

Currently, the Post has foreign bureaus in London, Jerusalem, Moscow, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Kabul, New Delhi, Paris, Tokyo, Baghdad, Beijing, Mexico City, Berlin and Rio. Jehl said contracted employees are also in place in Iran and Colombia.

Among the initial moves is relocating a second person to cover Afghanistan and Pakistan. "When I arrived, we were relying primarily on one person to cover Afghanistan and Pakistan and it was too daunting," he says. "Especially in a year when that is going to be critical to the U.S."

He added that relocations will mean the Rio and Berlin bureaus would be unfilled for a while, along with at least one other unnamed bureau.

"At the moment, it is that part of the world that is most urgent," he said of the middle east-far east corridor. "The most important for readers in Washington is that area. There may be some other changes going forward to focus our coverage in that part of the world. It feels most urgent to us."

Jehl, 47, came to the Post on Aug. 3 after 16 years at The New York Times. He also served a stint at the Los Angeles Times. During his previous reporting days, he covered events in Cairo, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Iraq and Somalia.

But he admits that being at the Post, or any major paper, these days means having fewer resources than in the past, especially on foreign coverage. While he says the Post does not plan to cut foreign staffing, no expansion is likely and using resources differently is necessary.

"I think it is fair to say we will focus on places where we can add value and do something special and distinctive, more than the routine," he explains. "That may mean, in some cases, leaving some of the routine breaking news to others, relying on the wires in a way we haven't in the past. I would say less emphasis on breaking news, more emphasis on enterprise and news that studies trends."

He adds: "In practice, we know we are smaller than The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. We are going to have to make some changes about what we cover and what we don't."

"We are clearly dealing with fewer resource than the Post has had in the past," Jehl said. "I don't expect that those resources would grow going forward." But he stressed that Brauchli and Publisher Katharine Weymouth "have made clear that foreign coverage is central to our mission of being for and about Washington."


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