Washington Times Out of Business

My former employer, The Washington Times, has announced a 40 percent staff reduction — and just in time for Christmas!

The paper, which in the very near future will be distributed for free in the DC-area, will reportedly only concentrate on national political coverage — meaning, it seems, the end of the Metro, Sports, Style and Business sections … for starters.

This news makes me glad I’m a former employee. But this is a sad day. I still have many friends at that paper, which even The Washington Post’s Howie Kurtz admitted often “punched above its weight class.” Indeed. We were out-staffed and out-resourced by at least a factor of 5 (if not 10) by our rivals, but rattled The Post and The New York Times — often making them follow our coverage.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity The Washington Times gave me to practice newspapering at the highest levels and beats — Congress and The White House. I subscribed to the paper’s weekly “digest” version (it arrived in the mail) when I lived in Pennsylvania, and dreamed of working for it one day. That dream came to pass … Darn it!  I don’t want this post to be the beginning of a eulogy … but it sure feels like it.

A friend there emails his lack of immense worry: “The cuts will all be people we never heard of, upstairs.”

Another (very veteran reporter) is more nervous, emailing: “I’m not sure what the future holds and whether I’m in or out. Problem is, I don’t think the managers know yet either who to keep and who to send packing. I can’t imagine the product they envision, but there are few places to go if I don’t like it.”

That’s not necessarily true. The traditional newspaper business we’ve all grown up with has been undergoing a painful transition, with the troubles at The Washington Times merely the latest example. Even though I love newspapers, I haven’t had one tossed onto my driveway in years, and likely never will again — nostalgia be dammed.

But there will always be a need for the services of journalists. They’ll just be on the Web. And my veteran reporter friend would hardly have trouble finding a new employer, if it came to that.

(Cross-posted at Infinite Monkeys)