There was an article last month in the Washington Business Journal about the demise of the Washington Post (affectionately known here in DC as “The Pest”). I recognize the irony of one paper writing about the demise of another – sort of like the Redskins Report talking about the downfall of the Cowboys. There is, no doubt, a certain amount of schadenfreude involved (if you don’t know what schadenfreude means, stop everything now and look it up. It’s a great word and, more important, it is happening all around you every day).
According to the WBJ, the Pest’s circulation is down 9.2% just from January to September 2012. The Pest’s publishing revenue has tanked from $450 million to $419 million in that same time frame. Hey, the Pest is not the only paper in the world to experience flagging readership and revenue. The Internet and mobile devices have changed everything forever in how we get our news. But, the Pest is definitely taking it a lot harder than some other papers. The Pest was #5 in the country in circulation in 2010 and dropped like a stone to #8 in 2011. And, and, and, things aren’t actually as bad in the print newspaper world as you might think. As the graph below from the Pew Research Center shows, declines in newspaper circulation, after a few really bad years from 2007-2009 , have flattened out a bit to the 2-4% range vs. the precipitous 12.3% plunge for the Pest (9.2% annualized is 12.3% for you non mathaholics).
Folks, something else is going on here and I suspect there’s more to this story than Washingtonians deciding to get all their news and opinion from my blog instead of the Pest. I suspect it has a lot to do with becoming irrelevant. Indeed, this is the risk in shifting from being a respected news outlet to a political advocacy group. The Pest has become so blatantly partisan that it is now indistinguishable from the campaign publications put out by the democrat party. They have been so in Obama’s hip pocket for the last 4 years, that nobody who works there can even remember what legitimate journalism looks like.
And, importantly, I don’t think intelligent readers of either party enjoy that. I am conservative (I know, shocker). For a while I subscribed to the blatantly conservative Washington Times. I hated it. I got no pleasure out of reading news articles (not opinion pieces) that were written solely with the intent of getting me to adopt the writer’s position, even though the position almost always coincided with my own. I suspect even liberals have begun to escape the Pest for the same reason. It simply is not a newspaper anymore. It is an opinionpaper, from page A-1 straight through to the op-ed page. But, those very strong partisan opinions are thinly disguised as news stories. People tire of that.
And, before you blather at me about Charles Krauthammer having an opinion piece in the Pest, let me say “duh.” It is identified as an opinion piece. Yes, they continue to have a few (very few) conservative columnists. But, zero conservative reporters. And, that’s my point. They no longer report the news so why would anyone looking for a newspaper read it? The numbers suggest fewer and fewer do.
I understand the Pest’s left leaning is not new. The nickname “Pravda on the Potomac” dates back to the 1970s. But, I have gotten the Pest delivered to my house for the last 46 years (OK, not sure I was reading it cover to cover at age 4). It has changed. It used to lean left. It has now toppled over to the left and lost all journalistic integrity (if there is such a thing anymore). And, it’s dying as a result. Let’s hope the death spiral continues. It won’t be missed. OK, maybe the Sports Section.