Post Mortem

Bye Lines

Only recently have the Washington Post obituaries been signed by its writers; Robert’s did not carry a by-line in August of 2006.

Washington Post, on right   1908

Washington Post Building on right, 1908

Having read the Duggan series, the man who penned that obit, Matt Schudel, shared his thoughts.

In Post Mortem, the paper’s obit blog he recalled of speaking with a stoic Kathy Wone as he prepared the piece.

“One of the saddest parts of this job is writing about young people whose lives were ended before they had the chance to fulfill their promise.”

We might ask Matt to talk with his fellow obit writer Joe Holley, who admits to ghost writing Hardy Boys mysteries earlier in his career.

Woodward and Bernstein?  Assign Duggan and Holley to this case.

The Wone story was the buzz of the newsroom that week, prompted by what the reporters and columnists were hearing from readers.  The online ones of course.

In addition to his editorial page piece, Ombudsman Andy Alexander continued the discussion in his Omblog and got some of Duggan’s thoughts on the story:

The goal was to fill in as many of the blanks as possible, about the men and the evidence, and write a coherent account of the case. We had time, since the case wasn’t going anywhere.  The men were charged and awaiting trial.  I started in on this after the holidays, around of the first of the year.

Over at the Style section last week, the Wone case came up in an online chat with the Reliable Source’s authors.  Roxanne Roberts responded to a reader’s question on the case,  “Is there anything more juicy than a sex-murder mystery?  We couldn’t stop talking about the Wone story…”

Columnist John Kelly was asked for his thoughts in his online chat:

It was a fascinating story, well told by Paul Duggan. I really don’t know what the answer is to the central question: Whodunnit?  As Paul told me, “It’s like a Rubik’s Cube.”  Once you get one part figured out you realize that on the back of the cube there’s a little green square in the middle of a bunch of red.  If the 3 guys did it, don’t see how the cops’ll prove it, barring a confession.

Kelly’s Metro section colleague Marc Fisher also tackled the issue getting a question from a ‘millenial reader’ who was, “a little annoyed that the Wone articles were not in the print version,”  and felt that print readers were ‘slighted’ that “some of the best articles the Post has had in a while,” were online only.  Fisher’s response:

We’re still in an experimental phase as we try to figure out what kinds of stories work best online and in print.  The simple fact is that as advertising declines, newspapers are shrinking.  Readership is stronger than ever before, so we face a business model problem rather than an audience problem.

In a story like this, which is quite long and complicated, there just isn’t room in the print paper to tell the tale as the reporter and editor wanted to.  The web, with its unlimited space, seemed like the place to do that.  That said, I’ve heard from many readers who argue quite persuasively that the paying customers ought to get the benefit of our reporting as much or more than the freeloaders who read us on the web.

If we had it to do over, I think some people here would choose to put part or a summary of the story in the print edition.  But others believe that the web is exactly where such stories should go.

And finally, Post humorist Gene Weingarten got a question about electro-ejaculation in his June 2 online chat and his technical assistant put the Duggan link up.  A Blacksburg, Virginia participant found the questioner flippant:

Blacksburg, Va.: Um… I was a friend of Robert Wone, who was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.   I found the guy who jokingly mentioned electro-ejaculation NOT FUNNY.  Do I need a sense of humor?  Or, as Liz (technical assistant) mentioned, does the context make it not OK?

Gene Weingarten: No, you’re right. I linked to it too hastily, because I wanted to talk about the story.  Apologies.

Do the Post’s print-only readers have any idea what they’re missing?


6 comments for “Post Mortem

  1. CDinDC
    06/15/2009 at 1:23 PM

    Fisher of WaPo says: “In a story like this, which is quite long and complicated, there just isn’t room in the print paper to tell the tale as the reporter and editor wanted to.”

    oh, c’mon. Chandra Levy had a series about her murder.

    • SheKnowsSomething
      06/15/2009 at 1:36 PM

      I think we all need to give up the ghost on this issue of online vs. print edition coverage already! A lot of people read the online piece and there is significant interest in solving this case. That what we really want, isn’t it?

      • CDinDC
        06/15/2009 at 4:49 PM

        Well, sure, but we want all we can get, don’t we?

        While I have your attention, SKS, do you know if Joe ever slept in Dylan’s room (w/Dylan, of course) at night. Afterall, he had two boyfriends. I wouldn’t think Joe would want to slight Dylan in that way.

  2. alithere
    06/16/2009 at 10:02 AM

    I think that anyone who can answer that question might be in the position to shed light on a more fundamental one, “Who Killed Robert Wone?”

  3. galoon
    06/16/2009 at 2:27 PM

    Some years ago, I would look forward each week to the sunday Inky (Philadelphia Inquirer) because they produced in depth stories that ran for pages. Sometimes 2 or 3 parters. Now print news is all short bits and online runs the in depth stories.
    I will now give up the ghost.

  4. Craig
    06/16/2009 at 5:56 PM

    Yeah. Bartlett and Steele. Those guys rocked. Vanity Fair has them now.

Comments are closed.