Update: The Washington Post's Marcus Liz Vernon sends a memo to staff saying this is about "office space, not personnel":
Colleagues, you will have heard reports that we have decided not to renew leases on some of our suburban offices when they come up starting next year. This decision is about office space, not personnel. We are doing this because we have more space than we use in many places, not because we are retrenching. Indeed, we may decide in some cases to take smaller offices in the same communities, and we will retain our existing bureaus in Richmond and Annapolis. With the savings from ending unnecessarily expensive leases, we will invest in technology that will enable us to file from anywhere, at any time, to any platform. We are maintaining staffing levels in the suburbs. In addition, reporters from our 15th Street newsroom continue to cover regional stories.
As most of you know, we have been investing in regional coverage recently. We have rebuilt our schools team and now have staff reporters on each of the major districts in our area. We have added bloggers covering Fairfax and Montgomery Counties, as well as the District. We’ve just launched On Faith Local, to cover religion in this area online. And we’ve started TheRootDC.com, covering the African-American community across the region.
Re-assessing our need for leased space in the suburbs will have no adverse impact on our coverage of the region and will, rather, create savings that will ultimately benefit our readers.
Marcus Liz Vernon
The Washington Post's national political reporter Amy Gardner tweeted some bad news on Thursday afternoon: "A sad day at The Washington Post, with the news that we're closing all of our local bureaus except Richmond and Annapolis," she said. Patrick Pexton, the paper's ombudsman, also tweeted, "Checking on report that Post is closing regional MD and VA bureaus, except Richmond and Annapolis. Cost cutting. More later." Details pending, the announcement comes nearly two years after The Post shuttered all of its national bureaus as part of a new strategy to focus on politics and local news. The following was posted on the Post's Guild Facebook page from Guild representative Frederick Kunkle:
As some of you have probably heard already — and as has been rumored for some time — the Post has decided to shut down all of its regional bureaus except those in the state capitals of Virginia and Maryland.
Vernon [Loeb, local editor], in a telephone conversation a little while ago, said that the Post’s leases on suburban bureaus will not be renewed after they expire, beginning in 2012, except in Richmond and Annapolis, which he said will “never” close.
Vernon also says that although this is obviously another sign of the Post’s effort to grapple with the economy and the radical changes in the media business, the closure of the physical buildings does not mean that the Post will reduce its local coverage.
He emphasized that the Post remains committed to covering our region as aggressively as possible. To that end, he said he will also do everything in his power to use some of the savings from the closure of the bureaus to invest in better mobile technology for reporters.
We’ll try to update you further as we hear more.
Please remember as we head into this Labor Day weekend that more than ever, tough times require a strong union, and we are only as strong as you are. As the Post continues to shrink, the Guild needs every person it can to become a dues-payiing member.