Despite Plea from Ombudsman, Washington Post Virginia Politics Coverage Continues Collapse

Despite Plea from Ombudsman, Washington Post Virginia Politics Coverage Continues Collapse

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On October 3, I wrote about how, as crucial 2012 and 2013 Virginia elections approached, the Washington Post’s Virginia Politics blog coverage was collapsing. As I noted at the time, what we’ve seen the past few months has been a sharp decline in the Post’s Virginia politics coverage, certainly in terms of quantity (e.g., a drop of about 70% since February 2012 in the number of Virginia politics articles the Post’s been publishing every month) if not in quality (very hard to measure, also subjective, so you’ll have to judge this one for yourself).

Thus, in July 2012 — not coincidentally, Virginia politics reporter Anita Kumar’s last month at the Post — the number of articles (94) on the Post’s Virginia Politics blog was actually UP 3% year-over-year. In sharp contrast, in August 2012, the number of articles (43) was down 51% compared to August 2011, and also sharply down (-54%) from July 2012. Things perked up slightly in October 2012, with 64 articles, but this was still down 40% year-over-year, despite the fact that there were two marquee races – Obama vs. Romney; Kaine vs. Allen – going on in the key “swing state” of Virginia. Given everything going on leading up to this year’s elections, you’d think that Post Virginia politics coverage would have been UP sharply from a year earlier, but instead it was DOWN sharply. Yikes.

Hey, you know things are bad when the Post Ombudsman (Patrick Pexton) writes a column entitled, “The Post forgets to be local.” In that piece, published on November 9, 2012, Pexton called the Post’s local coverage “inadequate,” especially considering that the competition – Patch and other “suburban weeklies” – were, in Pexton’s view (and mine) “inadequate to the task.” No argument here (although I’d add that, increasingly, the Moonie Times and even the bat****-crazy Washington Examiner are kicking the Post’s butt on Virginia politics coverage).

So, what’s happened over the past few weeks since Pexton’s column? Has the Post picked up its coverage of Virginia politics and other local news? Nope. Instead, as you can see from the graph, the collapse in the Post’s Virginia politics coverage has actually accelerated, if anything. Incredibly, given everything going on in Virginia politics – both related to 2012 and 2013 – there have been just 34 stories posted on the Virginia Politics blog through November 22, 2012, down 69% from November 2011 (note: with 1 week to go, assuming the blog keeps up this pace, the number of posts will be down about 60% year-over-year).

Just for comparison purposes, I’ve personally posted 105 diaries so far in November. That’s more than twice as many articles as the entire Washington Post Virginia Politics blog staff has posted during that same time period! Obviously, other Blue Virginia “front pagers” have posted many more (I haven’t counted them all, but let’s be conservative and say 150-200 total front-page diaries on Blue Virginia so far in November). So, the fact is that the “amateurs” at Blue Virginia have managed to outproduce the Washington Post Virginia Politics blog, with several paid reporters at its service, by a factor of 3:1, 4:1 or more. What are these people doing over there? Hard to say, but it’s certainly not doing much reporting on Virginia politics. #FAIL

UPDATE: I just checked the Virginian Pilot’s “Pilot on Politics” blog, which is written by one (1) reporter, Julian Walker. I counted 58 articles in November, or 14 more than the entire Washington Post Virginia Politics blog produced. Wow.

UPDATE #2: I just checked the Roanoke Times “Blue Ridge Caucus” blog, and I counted 91 blog posts in November so far. Much better material, too – more analysis, more photos, more local coverage in general, not so much cookie-cutter/press release stuff as the Post.

UPDATE #3: Believe it or not, there’s a major Virginia newspaper with even less Virginia politics coverage than the Post — the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which has just 15 stories on its “Virginia Politics” blog through today. #evenworsefailthanthekaplanpost

  • kindler

    The Post and other traditional media seem to trip all over themselves to avoid mentioning local blogs like this one — even though there is ample evidence that those who care the most about state and local politics follow us, the blogs dig up some stories that the press would otherwise miss, and the Post and others borrow heavily from us, usually without attribution.  

    The media dinosaurs don’t have to continue their long, plodding march to death, if they shake up their business models, try some new approaches and treat the blogosphere as a necessary part of their universe, to be understood and worked with, rather than treated as the forbidden place that polite people never mention…

  • The Richmonder

    Jeff Schapiro is good, but that’s about it for the RTD.

  • listlady

    I suspect that the number of articles on Virginia politics in the printed WP is also on the decline, especially if one doesn’t count coverage of presidential candidates visiting the state. And most of what we do get is simplistic. Very sad.