Yesterday afternoon, Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli fielded questions in a live “Letters to the Editor” moment on WaPo‘s website. Among the questions asked and answered, one was noted among some journalism circles for an odd balance of coverage when it comes to two important District establishments: the Office of the President of the United States and the Washington Redskins. As the reader, identified by no more than their home of Kensington, Md., posits:
Yesterday the Post assigned seven reporters to cover one Redskins game, and that’s not counting Wilbon, who I’m sure will chime in later. It also had reporters traveling to New York to cover the Jets, to Cincinnati to cover the Ravens, and to Dallas to see what the Cowboys were up to….This is a “national” paper that doesn’t even bother to maintain a New York or Los Angeles bureau any more, and yet for about five months a year you still manage to give more coverage to a perennially losing football team than you do to the President of the United States.
What’s potentially more interesting is that Brauchli didn’t exactly refute the claim, instead dodging the assessment about the President to defend the fact that the Post covers lots of local teams since that’s what drives readers and pageviews.
Let’s try to at least look at this in a quasi-scientific way. There are approximately 1,668 results on the Post’s website in the last 60 days that include the exact phrase “President Obama”; only 1,375 results mention “Redskins” at all. No, this is not the end-of-all-be-all of scientific experiments, and this is either “closer than it should be” or “based on technicalities” depending on your pre-existing opinions. Either way, it’s an interesting discussion that hits at the nerve of something bigger in the media world: Is the Washington Post a national paper or local one?