The Post Secretly Hearts NYTimes

The Washington City Paper makes a strong argument that the Washington Post might privately envy / obsess over the New York Times.

    Genetic engineering will be required to cure the Post of its obsession with the Times. The Times, after all, has long been the benchmark that the Post uses to mark its ascension as a player on the national media stage…

    The obsession these days shows up at 15th and L in a big bundle. The Post newsroom maintains 88 daily subscriptions to the Times–or roughly one paper for every 10 staffers. On Saturdays and Sundays, the pile drops to 32 copies. The annual cost for all that newsprint comes to $18,108. Those figures washed up on the Post critique site courtesy of Health section editor Craig Stoltz, who had asked the newsroom budget people for numbers on Times subs.

    The payments to the Times, Stoltz wrote, can go to more productive ends. Anyone who wants to check on the competition can do it for free on the Web, he said. “The more we and the Gray Lady watch each other, react to each other, scheme against each other, and hire each other’s disgruntled staffers, the more we become like a seasoned old couple that has been together for years and now shares each other’s mannerisms, values, friends and favorite movies,” wrote Stoltz. “We hardly notice that the youngsters don’t find us as interesting as we find ourselves.”

    Another good reason to ditch the daily Times watch: According to Post research dating to spring 2005, a mere 4 percent of Post readers also read the Times on weekdays; on Sundays, that number inches up to 5 percent. “To say we shouldn’t do a story because the Times has done it is a very big mistake,” says Post Associate Editor Robert Kaiser.

Do the NYTimers don’t return the favor?

    The Times plays coy on how much love it returns to the Post’s circulation people. When asked how many Post subs the Times buys, Times spokesperson Catherine Mathis responds via e-mail that the “folks in the newsroom weren’t comfortable” with coughing up a number. However, well-placed sources in the paper’s main newsroom and Washington bureau yield a count of at least 65 Posts.

    And the Times could well exacerbate the Post’s persistent circulation problems if a recent Times budgeting memo is to be believed: “We will be reviewing subscription accounts desk by desk in the coming months, with an eye to reducing the number of publications coming into the building.”

    If Times folk don’t quite reciprocate the Post’s fascination with them, it’s perhaps because they have more fronts to monitor. “Our attentiveness to the Post is no greater than our attentiveness to the Wall Street Journal,” says Times Assistant Managing Editor and Standards Editor Allan Siegal.