How The Washington Post Shifted Gears

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In 2015, mobile compatibility and multimedia continued to shape how newsrooms reach and inform their readers, and predictions show no sign of these trends fading.

How have traditionally print newspapers made sense of the changing media landscape?

We turned to The Washington Post, the D.C. region’s most widely circulated newspaper and the winner of 47 Pulitzer Prizes, for answers.

On Wednesday, February 24, four major Washington Post editors – Ann Gerhart, Amanda Erickson, Allison Michaels and Terri Rupar – came together at the National Press Club to discuss the current state of the media and communicators’ role in it.

Moderated by Cision’s Stacey Miller, the panelists explored how one of the nation’s leading daily newspapers determines which stories to run, what it’s doing to make waves in the digital sphere and how social and the Internet transformed the “typical” work day.


Here’s a glimpse at a few of the many topics covered at Cision Connects with The Washington Post:

Q: What are the top things you identify in a story to determine its newsworthiness and appeal to readers?

For Amanda Erickson, assistant editor of PostEverything, a fresh argument makes the cut. She’s not looking for pitches laying out everything there is to know about a subject. She wants angles that will open her eyes and can be easily summarized in a headline.

Ann Gerhart, senior editor-at-large at The Washington Post emphasizes the need for forward thinking, not repetitive, over-discussed, angles.

“Tell me something I didn’t know. Surprise matters,” Ann says.

For the digital team, the focus isn’t about today, but rather tomorrow.

“I’m looking for ways we can build, fix or better get the great stuff our reporters do to the people,” says national digital editor Terri Rupar.

Q: What’s the role of data in your stories today? What kind of data do you look for?

According to Ann, the marketing and PR world has not yet reached the same level of information sharing as newsrooms.

“Rarely does anyone say, ‘Here’s the data.’”

For Allison, it’s all about target audience. “Think about what kind of audience you want to see your information,” she says.“What we do from a digital media perspective is engage audiences from around the Web. Find a way to work that into your pitch.” SOTM-2016-social-ad3_800x200

Q: How do you display stories across all your different platforms?

“We’re constantly thinking of new ways for mobile design to reach new people,” Allison says.

Last year, for example, they launched “Big Story, Small Screen,” an app for the Apple Watch. By splitting stories up into little tidbits of visual information, readers can quickly catch up with what’s going on in the world.

Ann also discussed how technology has changed how The Washington Post publishes its stories.

“Before, there had to be a news play. People felt like they had to fit in a place with their nugget of information,” she says.“Now a nugget of information by itself is quite remarkable without having to fit into a broader story line.”

According to Terri, The Post no longer thinks strictly in inch count, sections or front covers.

“What’s exciting now is what we do differently,” Terri says. “We’re thinking about apps first.”

Q: What is a “typical” day and how has it changed since you’ve worked at The Washington Post?

With more than 20 years of experience under her belt, Ann speaks up about the increasing pace at The Washington Post. “Everyone I know who’s still in the business at this stage is working harder than ever,” she says.

“I’m proud to work here because we’ve really adapted well. We’ve maintained our capacity to deliver quality journalism, reached a whole new audience and dominate in digital.”

This is a huge feat, considering The Post publishes over 700 new URLS each day and maintains its print circulation.

Terri’s day starts with email and continues on with nonstop conversations with the social and graphics team to ensure they’re promoting digital stories in the right way in the right places.

While at PostEverything, Amanda has to straddle the two daily thought processes of traditional and digital coverage.

“On one hand, we’re trying to come up with daily arguments,” she says. “On the other hand, with our weekly outlook section, we need news and analysis that can hold up so we can run it on Sunday.”

Images via Cision

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About Katie Gaab

Katie Gaab is a content marketing specialist for Cision. Previously the senior editor for Help A Reporter Out (HARO), she enjoys connecting audiences to exciting, new content. She's a dancer, avid concert-goer, foreign language nerd and book worm. Find her on Twitter @kathryngaab.

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