Owner Jeff Bezos might want to take the Washington Post to a more global audience, but Executive Editor Marty Baron maintained Tuesday that the root of the news operation is local news.
"It's absolutely central that we have strong roots," Baron said at the Engage Local conference sponsored in Newark, N.J., by the American Society of News Editors, the American Press Institute, the McCormick Foundation, the News Literacy Project and Montclair State University.
The aim of the two-day event was to promote better ways for news organizations to further engagement with their local communities. It began Monday night with a town-hall session with Newark residents.
Baron was interviewed by Merrill Brown, director of the Montclair State School of Communication and Media and a former Post reporter in a lunchtime "fireside chat." The discussion covered the Post's ever-expanding web and mobile presence, topics that interest millennials, the imprisonment and trial of Post reporter Jason Rezaian in Iran, and more.
Brown noted that the Graham family, the Post's previous owners, said often that the Post was first and foremost a local paper. However, as Michael Meyer said of Bezos in the July/August 2014 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, "As it has been with Amazon, his obsession at the Post is finding a way to integrate a product into millions of people’s lives in a way they haven't yet experienced."
Baron said that the Post's Metro staff numbers 80 and that the Post publishes an All-Met sports section on high schools. But he said the local staff, too, is involved in the effort for a wider reach. "How do we take our local stories, if they are emblematic of something going on on a national level — can we turn them into something larger?" Baron asked.
Examples of issues with such "crossover" potential are "free range" parenting, in which children receive less supervision, which originated as Maryland story, and police stories.
As to local outreach, a "Coffee@WaPo" discussion series with community members, launched Wednesday with a moderated discussion about sexual assault on college campuses, based on Post reporting conducted with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Baron said the Post doesn't really have a hyperlocal presence. Such an attempt in Loudoun County, Va., in 2008 failed. "It's very expensive to do, but it's an issue we really have to confront." Overall, Baron said, "We try to engage with the local community in every way that we can."
Other topics at the conference included revenue-building measures for community newspapers, such as redbankgreen, a directory of restaurants in the Red Bank, N.J., area; innovative ways to interact with readers and listeners, such as New York Public Radio's "Bored and Brilliant" project and the Bay Area's StoryWorks, a collaboration between a local theater and the Bay Area-based Center for Investigative Reporting; and research from the Pew Research Center on community engagement with media in Denver, Macon, Ga., and Sioux City, Iowa.
- Bob Papper, Radio Television Digital News Association: Research: Tracking local news: Amount of local news stabilizing
When T: The New York Times Style Magazine relaunched in 2013, readers instantly noticed the lack of people of color. T's editor-in-chief, Deborah Needleman, promised to be more vigilant.
The issue published with Sunday's newspaper featured Amilna Estevão, a 16-year-old from Luanda, Angola, on its cover.
She "was discovered in 2013 after participating in the Elite Model Look competition in Angola. From there, she went on to the Elite International competition in China and won third place," according to Erika Ostroff, writing in Yahoo Style.
Needleman told readers, "As for our exquisite cover model, Amilna Estevao, when we saw her at Alexander Wang's fall show, we were gobsmacked. At only 16, she possesses a classic beauty and natural poise that will only deepen as she matures. This is her first major magazine cover, but my guess is that she will have a long career if she chooses to. . . ."
- Margaret Sullivan, New York Times: Newsroom Diversity: Why We Should Care
"After less than three hours of deliberation yesterday, an all-white jury decided that former Fox 29 anchor Tom Burlington had not been fired for racial reasons,"Dan Spinelli reported Monday for the Philadelphia Daily News.
"Burlington was terminated on July 12, 2007, after using the N-word during a June 23, 2007, staff meeting about the Philadelphia Council of the NAACP's symbolic burial of the infamous epithet.
"'Does this mean we can finally say, "N-----?"' Burlington testified he'd said in the meeting. However, Anne Malone, to whom Fox 29 referred Burlington for sensitivity training, wrote that he had said the word three times in rapid succession during the June 23 meeting.
"Jerome Hoffman, attorney for Fox 29, said in his closing argument that Malone's notes predate Burlington's lawsuit, and may best reflect his honest recollection of the meeting.
"'Just stop and think: Who in the world would ever say that?' Hoffman said yesterday about Burlington's comments. . . ."