In January 2009, two of the nation’s most storied and competitive newspapers will begin printing each other’s articles. Are the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun sharing resources during a recession to better play to their strengths? Losing part of their hearts and souls? Or is it both?
The Post’s headquarters is in downtown Washington, D.C., and the Sun’s in downtown Baltimore. The Post has a weekday circulation of about 622,714, and the Sun averages 218,923. Both cover the 35 or so miles of Maryland that physically separate them. For decades, the coverage has been aggressively competitive.
But the recession—and the Internet—ravaged the newspapers financially. The two experienced deep staff cuts and profit losses, as has the rest of the industry. The Tribune Company, owner of the Sun, declared bankruptcy earlier this month.
Under the new arrangement, the Post and the Sun will divide local and sports news for Maryland. They also will be able to share each other’s national and world content. Enterprise (investigative) and exclusive stories won’t be shared and the papers’ Web sites cannot publish each others’ stories until they have appeared in the original paper’s print edition.
“This allows both newspapers to really use their resources to pursue stories that are unique to them, to play to their own strengths,” said J. Montgomery Cook, who will become the editor of The Sun in early January. “Budgets are tight everywhere, and it helps us to put our resources where we can use them best, and avoid duplication.”
“It means you will be less today than you were before,” Gandelman argues. “Duplication was never a problem…the attitude was that even if you duplicated, you could build on the duplication and do a story the competition did better.”
It’s too early to say how this story sharing arrangement will impact the art of pitching newspapers. Similar story sharing is occurring at other dailies.