Downie Weighs In On The Buyouts

FishbowlDC has obtained this internal staff memo sent by the Washington Post’s Len Downie and Phil Bennett:

    To: Newsroom staff May 16, 2008
    From: Len and Phil

    Over the next few weeks, more than 100 of our colleagues and friends will leave the newsroom after accepting the early retirement offer. While several will be here for the next few months, most will end their careers at The Post by June 1. We’re happy for those who have taken this opportunity to start a new chapter in their lives, but we will miss them.

Read the rest after the jump… (UPDATE: And see Erik Wemple’s running commentary)


    The rest of us are entering a new phase in our transformation of the newsroom to meet the challenges facing us as an industry, as a news organization and as journalists. While we do not yet know all the ways in which we will proceed, there is no self-doubt or confusion about the direction in which we’re headed. We will remain engaged in impactful journalism about local, national and international news, regardless of which platform on which it is delivered to readers. We will retain the passion for our craft, the spirit of discovery and the commitment to service and to each other that defines The Washington Post.

    We are accelerating the process of structural change in the newsroom, not only to adapt to the size of our staff and resources, but to innovate and create journalism that we aspire to and that our readers demand, in print and on electronic platforms. We have discussed many of these changes before, but some are worth highlighting. They all require your participation, ideas and energy.

    Refining our editing model. Last month we launched a pilot program for editing the content of the A section, along with a redesign. We redistributed editing authority across copy and assignment editors, changed deadlines, and reduced the number of editors, with the goal of replacing an assembly line model with that of a network. These changes have been successful, and we are making them permanent. A similar model will be adopted by Financial on June 1 and will spread to other sections over the summer.

    Setting new directions. In searching for new leadership for the National, Style and News Art staffs, we are seeking new ideas for coverage, story forms, staff structure and collaboration with the Web. We have begun similar discussions about the missions, content and structures of Health, Travel, KidsPost and other sections.

    Focusing our priorities. We are channeling our reporting resources into coverage that matters most and is of greatest interest to our readers by redefining beats and responsibilities.

    This newsroom is a unique and, to us, precious place. Its creation over many years and by many hands is one of the enduring and wonderful accomplishments of American journalism. It was built in good times and bad, shaped especially by periods of trial, when our courage, commitment and creativity were challenged.

    We are now in such a period now. We’re confident that we’ll be equal to it.