It’s becoming a bigger and bigger issue. The size of companies like Google and Microsoft and Facebook is growing, and they have huge DC operations. More politics is happening online, too. The Post has always had some great tech reporters who mostly write for print. But they’ve had relatively limited Web focus on tech policy, which is an oversight. This is an effort to fill a hole where there was not as much coverage as there maybe should have been.
You wrote a few years back, when the Post fired Dave Weigel, about how as organization it was “almost certainly incapable of nurturing the kind of quirky, bottom-up culture that produces successful bloggers.” What’s changed?
I think that Ezra Klein has been really influential here. He’s really good at his job, and he has a really good understanding of what it takes to make Web journalism work in a large news organization like this. So the fact that he’s been here and has been succeeding was important. The culture here does seem hospitable to this kind of journalism. And since he’s here, if there are culture clashes, he’s there to make sure that the organization makes the support that’s needed.
The people who have seen how Wonkblog works and seen how it’s succeeded, now they’re more open to some of the unorthodox things we do.
A print publication has a strict separation between news and opinion section. We use more of an analytical style. You don’t have this thing where the reporter doesn’t pretend he doesn’t have opinions about things. That makes people nervous on the newspaper side, but because the Web’s so crowded you have to do a certain amount of that to get attention. Because Wonkblog has been so successful at building an audience, it’s a risk they’re willing to take. It’s clearly the direction that journalism is going.
Disclosure: CJR has received funding from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to cover intellectual-property issues, but the organization has no influence on the content.