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WASHINGTON, D.C. — After some initial resistance, reporters in the newsroom of The Washington Post are now working increasingly closely with the Web producers at washingtonpost.com, according to the paper's executive editor.
Leonard Downie, who has held the top editorial job at the Post for 15 years, discussed the changes in news dissemination during a Saturday session at the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference. Downie participated in a Q&A by former news broadcaster Betsy Ashton.
Post reporters contribute video, breaking news stories and blogs to the online site and also appear on radio and television stations discussing their stories. With the changes, “Washington Post-style journalism can reach people in a new way,” Downie said.
“The people in the newsroom are starting to adapt,” he said, noting that reporters tell him that people now recognize them on the street because of their TV and Web exposure.
Downie advised student journalists at the convention and their teachers that students should be exposed to the new reporting tools and delivery methods as part of their schooling, but the focus of a journalist's education should be writing and reporting.
“It doesn't matter how Webbie you are, if you can't report, it doesn't matter,” he said.
Addressing the decline in circulation of many newspapers, including the Post, Downie said The Washington Post Company is somewhat cushioned financially because of its diversification, including ownership of an education company and cable systems.
Downie said he doesn't believe the doom and gloom predictions about the financial health of the news business, saying focusing on the decline in print “blinds us to change.”
On the use of anonymous sources, Downie says “we try really, really hard to get someone on the record. By going the extra mile we can get them on the record.”
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.