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DC’s Dailies Endure Tumultuous News Week

By T.C. Cameron

In a city where breaking news is the norm, news about three DC dailies has the region’s media abuzz.
First, The Washington Post announced that it intends to institute a limited paywall this summer, to charge some heavy users of its website for access. The Post had long resisted the idea of charging for content on its website, believing that the decline in audience would cost more in lost advertising revenue than the paywall would generate.
On Tuesday, Media Bistro’s Fishbowl DC printed rumors about the possibility of new layoffs at the Washington Times. The gossip site did not name any source for the report, and the Times refused to comment. The daily let dozens of staffers go last November.
The biggest news came Wednesday. The Washington Examiner announced that it would end daily publication in June and convert to an online political platform and weekly print magazine. Local news, sports and entertainment coverage will be dropped and 87 employees will be fired. The new platform will start June 17, while the Examiner’s last day of daily production is scheduled for June 14.
News of the Examiner’s new direction broke around noon Wednesday. Washington City Paper printed the full text of the memo leaked ahead of the paper’s decision. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple quoted Examiner Editor Stephen G. Smith about the wave of emotions he had to wade through when he learned his newsroom was, “about to be dismantled, then rebuilt.” Smith told Wemple the paper retained 38 staffers, and about 20 to 30 new hires will be added.
As for the Times, Media Bistro’s Besty Rothstein’s story claimed that CEO Larry Beasley and his staff were contemplating more layoffs. But she attributed the story to anonymous sources, and reported that Beasley did not return calls for comment.
Finally, The Washington Post will start charging frequent users of its website this summer. In a March 18 article by Post reporter Steven Mufson, the threshold will be 20 articles or multimedia features per month. Users who reach the 20-feature mark will be asked to pay a fee. The Post has not announced the price.
Readers who subscribe to home delivery of the Post will receive free, unfettered access to the paper’s entire digital platform. The Post also said it would exempt large parts of its audience from having to pay the fees. Students, teachers, school administrators, government employees and military personnel will also continue to enjoy unlimited access in schools and workplaces.
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