“Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” These words from Philip Graham, former publisher and co-owner of The Washington Post, are boldly stamped across a wall at the newspaper’s new headquarters in Washington, D.C.
At a time when history is being determined in 140 characters, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the news is faster, more mobile and more adaptable than ever before. The Washington Post’s new office reflects this high-paced digital media revolution, and my coworker Kaylin and I were fortunate enough to experience the new digs firsthand.
While the newsroom is decorated with headlines of the past, the headlines being written are one step into the future. Various customized dashboards throughout the office, including one large centralized hub, provide a real-time stream of data and metrics about page views, unique visitors per month, site speed, desktop and mobile users, and trending headlines. They help guide storyline development and set the pace of breaking news.
The daily meetings at 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. lay out the day and the front page, but the paper has learned to adapt to breaking news for both print and digital. For example, when Muhammad Ali died late Friday evening, his prewritten obituary and a new front page made it to the driveways of suburban households in the metro area the next morning.
Reporters across the newsroom draft stories as they unfold from their standing desks, wearing noise canceling headphones and occasionally monitoring stats from their own articles. Today political reporting has taken an even larger emphasis. The success of intrepid and investigative reporting has affirmed that insightful discussions of politics, sometimes aided by divisive figures, can sell papers.
With no past experience covering politics, reporters of all beats now pursue angles tied to the new administration and how the latest decisions, or tweets, from the White House impact their focus areas and industries. Some reporters have even transitioned to full-time political beat reporters.
Beyond the increased attention to politics, changes within The Washington Post reflect a new era of news, impacting how we tell stories and how we digest them. When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013, the newspaper began shifting to digital through new website and mobile designs with enhanced analytics, a large team of engineering staff and emerging digital media teams.
Today the Post plans to add 30 new hires to its current 35 person video team. The video staff span their own section of the newsroom and have access to high-tech video rooms for filming. Additionally, to stay competitive, the newspaper is bringing news to its own doors by hosting various events, from TEDx style talks with industry leaders in a live media auditorium to trying out new food recipes in the test kitchen with esteemed chefs.
One Bezos project that he is particularly close to is The Washington Post Rainbow, which is a curated app suite meant for mobile and tablets and is designed to create more engaged reading. You won’t see a homepage on this app, only visuals and condensed headlines so you are more likely to read through the entire article as you scroll through – similar to how you would scroll through social media apps. The news is now mimicking social media to grab our attention amidst the media’s congested, high-traffic environment we experience each day.
From the new office in the center of the city to the digital office design, The Washington Post has transformed from a traditional newspaper to a newsroom for modern media. To secure media coverage in this leading business publication, PR pros must understand the shift happening from within and the new mediums and channels The Washington Post is opening up to identify the right opportunities at the right time.