Recently, Rob Pegoraro, technology columnist for the Washington Post for the past 17 years, announced he was leaving the Post. After 17 years, I understand anyone’s reason for moving on and doing other things but this wasn’t the case. I was disappointed to learn of the reason he has decided to leave.
According to Rob, “The proximate cause is management deciding that the sort of review and analysis of technology that I’ve been doing for most of those 17 years is no longer part of the Post’s core mission. As I understand it, the paper places a high priority on covering Washington the city (as in, local news and sports) and Washington the story (politics), but other topics may not be assured of column inches or server space.”
It’s difficult to believe that, at a time when Washington is turning ever more readily toward technology for everything from energy efficiency to warfare efficiency, from voting in Congress to registering for Social Security and Medicare online, that there’s no room for a technology column in the Washington Post.
Rob’s comments, however, make clear that recent trends within traditional media toward specializing and hyper-localizing their news reports are picking up steam. The Post seems to be retreating to its core—news from and about the nation’s capital, a position from which it can defend all naysayers. Media that have created hyper-local editions have followed a similar path, moving inward to reach core audiences rather than expanding outward to incorporate new areas and issues.
None of this is necessarily a bad development; it simply leaves the potential for tremendous vacuums in uncovered news. In the case of the Post, I’m certain some publication owner on the East Coast is readying a new column—or an online magazine—that will review technology for D.C. denizens. It would be difficult to believe that those with the greatest power over regulating carriers, the Internet and the business climate would settle for becoming as isolated from their issues as are some in Congress. I wish Rob well, and I offer best wishes to those who seek to fill the gap he leaves.
—Janet Tyler is co-founder and president of Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley.