06 May 2011

The Washington Post: Missing Local Coverage by Way More than a Nose

But not as slow as the WaPo's local news coverage...

Friend and fellow THIH writer Liz Festa and I were chatting yesterday, when the conversation turned to the day’s happenings.  She’d heard that Peabody Elementary had been evacuated on account of a suspicious package, but was there any additional information?  The listservs, usually abuzz with information, were very quiet.  Our mutual friend/THIH founder Kate McFadden had sent along an article from wamu.com that stated originally that seven (later updated to 20) schools had been sent packages.  I had also seen a few Tweets from Ward 6 councilmember Tommy Wells (@tommywells), DCFD (@dcfireems), and DCist (@DCist_updates) telling the story of how between 25 and 29 of our city’s elementary, middle and high schools had been sent these packages, forcing DCPS to evacuate the schools and contact the FBI.  The packages were later found to contain no harmful substances.  DCFD tweeted last night that DCPS would be resuming normal activities today, Friday 6 May.  A summary check of the front page of the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times and WTOP.com revealed that they all felt it was necessary to cover this story– one that was probably a tasteless prank, but with an uneventful ending.

What was the Washington Post tweeting about? The Kentucky Derby!

Its local coverage on the front page of its website– appropriately well below the fold and in a font reserved to best be read by ants– featured only a commentary on ADHD along with two other lifestyle stories.  There was absolutely no mention of the incident in their own backyard until this morning. The story is now featured on their Twitter stream, added a few minutes before 8 am.

Finally, some newsworthy local news. Sort of.

You may say, “Well, perhaps the Post just wanted to make sure it had all the facts before it published its story!” After all, in none of the other reports do we learn that the packages were sent from Dallas and all had a letter that included the phrase, “FROM ALQEDA-FBI” But the truth is that the Washington Post sometimes treats its eponymous city with less regard than any other city in the country, neglecting to feature content that other local media outlets routinely pick up and paying entirely too much homage to that Other Washington– the one that is a governing organism and not a city made of people who would like to know, in a timely fashion, just what the heck went on with their child’s school yesterday.

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11 responses to “The Washington Post: Missing Local Coverage by Way More than a Nose”

  1. M says:

    My first account came from a friend who works at Ballou in the late morning. It wasn’t at the panic stages but an overall concern. The rumor-mill was happening and it went spreading like a wild-fire by 1pm. I do believe there was a stern warning from DCPS central office on how to handle the situations; which probably came directly from the FBI. As you notice all references have been to the FBI being the lead agency. To have a simultaneous hit at 29 schools is nothing to sneeze at, but could you imagine if all 126 schools got the packages at one time? There’s a good reason for snail-mail.

    In turn, I checked with my schools and talked with personnel who said that they had everything under control. By 2:30 I was receiving robo-calls, the phone tree of dialogue was in full motion and even some of our PTSAs had sent out an email.

  2. Liz Festa says:

    God bless the phone tree! No, I couldn’t find anything on the Wash Post site long after 10 pm on the at-large city council race recently when I went to check in to see if it had been called–I went straight to the blogs and City Paper.
    Our family’s Hill elementary school (Maury) did not have mail delivered yesterday–we get it late in the day–so I think the USPS called off deliveries to the remainder of DC schools after realizing what was going on. We have a protocol in place for today’s mail.

  3. MJ says:

    I was wondering what was going on! I walked by Peabody at 6 pm and a huge police/fire convoy came sweeping in all around the park. Had no idea what was going on.

    However, the Washington Post is a national paper and is becoming even more so. Since the NYT started charging for online contence, and WSJ already does, that leaves WaPo as the premiere free national newspaper and I think they are definitely looking to fill that role!

  4. jfk says:

    also silent……Kaya Henderson!

  5. M says:

    I might date myself but this is so reminiscent on how DCPS handle the 9/11 situation as the panic was being embraced all over the city. DCPS had this sense of calm and control. Yeah, it was strange not to see Kaya among those when the Mayor gave his press conference, considering it was all about DCPS.

  6. JD says:

    I hope everyone isn’t only checking the default Post home page at washingtonpost.com for local news, because that’s the “national” version. Bookmark PostLocal.com.

  7. Maria Helena Carey Maria Helena Carey says:

    Thank you for that tip. The fact that there is a separate local area where DC news have to compete with the whole metropolitan area ,and where this story was also relegated to the tiny sidelines is kind of another reminder that DC as a city seems to count for less. The Twitter account I find especially indefensible.

  8. Elizabeth Festa says:

    The local WaPo sontribution was late, derivative, poorly sourced and not through–oh, powder was sent to Maury as well today, but was intercepted. It looks like it is sent by some chronic cornstarch mailer from Texas, but sending it to schools is very creepy and gives one pause.

  9. Peter says:

    Here is my problem with WaPo, its local news coverage is lacking in both its regular paper and the morning Express. As much as I hate to read the DC Examiner, I am now grabbing it in the morning because it is how I get my local news coverage. While the Express has maybe one or two small articles on local news, the DC Examiner has a number of pages dedicated to local news.

  10. Thanks, jdland, for mentioning PostLocal. A massive website like washingtonpost.com can be daunting to navigate. To help readers quickly find their DC-MD-VA news, we give you PostLocal. It officially launched last June — you might have seen the newspaper ads, site ads, ads on Metro buses, etc. Please bookmark! And let us know if you have suggestions.
    Jane Elizabeth
    Deputy Local Editor/Digital
    The Washington Post

  11. Jane, thank you for chiming in. The local page is a good addition and I do check it when I think to. Although one thing I have noticed (and I bring this up since you asked for suggestions) is that it does not seem to be updated much and the top content is often devoted to style or food features, instead of news. Is this something you all have considered revising?

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