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The Washington Post’s universal newsroom

October 6: In 1996, the D.C.-based Washington Post created a digital office in Arlington, Va., to manage WashingtonPost.com. For over 10 years, print and digital were run almost as if they were separate entities, where duplication of coverage sometimes occurred and communication between the two offices was lacking.

In an article documenting a communication rift between the print and digital sides regarding an investigative story in 2008, then-Washington City Paper reporter Erik Wemple covered just how disjointed the two newsrooms were: “The geographic separation takes its toll on the Post in two ways. It causes frequent communication breakdowns whose remedies invariably involve costly investments in training and outreach, and it creates overlapping functions in which both the print and online operations assign reporters to the same beats. The result is waste, a luxury that no newspaper, including the Post, can afford in this era of slumping print circulation and advertising.”

In the face of an increasingly digital world, the Post decided it was time to integrate in 2009, and streamline its operations. The basic principle was to create a multiplatform group that could manage the handling of content from print, online and mobile, noted Raju Narisetti, a managing editor and head of WashingtonPost.com news operations.

By last August, the reorganization was underway, and the creation of a universal news desk came to fruition. Now more than a year later, the Post newsroom runs with increased efficiency, including a reduction in duplication and a focus on all things digital, noted Narisetti. “It speeded up the DNA of the operation,” he said. “We put up stories a lot faster, there’s more multimedia. A lot more people are thinking in advance about what elements go into that.” More video and galleries have been added with the increased concentration on the digital, as well as an emphasis on search engine optimization, Facebook and Twitter, which are activities driven by the universal news desk. Some sections of the website have been redesigned, while others will undergo a change by January.

Although it’s still a work in progress, Narisetti said he hopes the structure will continue to evolve. And in many ways, it already has. The Post used to have 600 people thinking mainly about print, he said. “Now I have 600 people thinking about Web and print – I just have more people thinking about both these and it really helps in planning and execution,” he said.

— Katrina M. Mendolera

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