Overcovering the Redskins, Undercovering the President?

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courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

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?

Dave Levy is a PR guy by day, a media researcher on the side and a self-proclaimed geek. He blogs often about how traditional media adapts – or tries to adapt – to the growing digital media world at State of the Fourth Estate. You can follow Dave on Twitter for various updates about everything from sports from his previous home in Boston to eccentric and obscure pop culture references. Read why Dave loves D.C.

4 thoughts on “Overcovering the Redskins, Undercovering the President?

  1. may sound silly, but i would rather read about how the skins are doing and every possible dissection of play then about President Obama and how he is going to make me pay for some other social policy that the democratic party believes is necessary despite the fact that Americans have money to pay for beer, ciggs, and tattoos. I am by no means Republican; however, I am a little upset with Obama thus far, so I would prefer to read about the Redskins whether they win or lose, because they have been here for more than two years, and will be here for more than the 4-8 that Obama will be in office. And side note, you should take in to account that football season has only just begun and as such, the Skins have yet to reach peek searches for the season on the post website…but I digress.

  2. @becca – politics completely aside, I think you make an interesting argument. As people living around Washington, is the Post’s job to be the zeitgeist for this community as opposed to using its geography to report and journalize about federal government for the nation? Football is just one example, and I don’t think it’s digressing to me; in all honesty, it just may be the bigger point about the future of WaPo.

  3. I think the only people that view the Post as a national newspaper are the Posties…their coverage has pretty much degenerated to the point that few consider it a national newspaper any more as far as I can tell.

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