AJR  Features
From AJR,   February/March 2012

Donít Worry, Those Cuts Wonít Hurt   

Another news organization (this time itís the Washington Post) trots out the shopworn ďmore with lessĒ nonsense. Weds., February 8, 2012

By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.     

There they go again.

A news organization is announcing that it is shrinking its staff. And once again we are reassured that this won't damage the product. In fact, things will only get better!


It's almost like there is a statute requiring news executives to mouth this nonsense. Nobody believes it. Everyone knows it's meaningless corporatespeak. But the beat goes on.

The offender this time is Marcus Brauchli, executive editor of the Washington Post. The Post, which has lost more than 200 newsroom staffers over the past three years, according to the New York Times, today announced another round of buyouts. The paper didn't specify how many staffers it hoped to jettison. The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters quoted a source as saying the target was 20.

But not to worry, Brauchli said in a statement: "The Post's Newsroom remains formidable, and we will continue making tactical hires so that even as we get smaller, we get stronger."

It's no surprise that the Post is cutting back further. Like all other newspapers, it has been hit hard by the advent of the digital era compounded by the nation's economic woes. Complicating the Post's plight are the sagging fortunes of Kaplan, the education unit whose massive profits for years helped prop up the Post Co. and the paper.

So cut if you must. But spare us the bogus happy talk.

Yes, the Washington Post continues to produce some excellent journalism. But it's impossible to ignore the overall decline of the paper in the wake of the carnage. Resources matter. You can't do more with less, no matter how often you say you can and will.

Senior contributing writer Paul Farhi wrote in AJR's Winter 2011 issue about the way news outlets, when they cover themselves, sugarcoat their own bad news. The same is true of news executives when they deliver that bad news.

I hope the Post does make some "tactical hires" who bring great distinction to the paper and washingtonpost.com. But they'd have to be very tactical indeed to overcome a loss of that much firepower.