Newspaper division operating income decreased 4 percent in 1998 to $165.1 million, from $172.6 million in 1997. The decline resulted primarily from a 10 percent increase in newsprint expense and additional costs associated with the expansion of the printing facilities of The Washington Post, offset partially by growth in advertising revenue. Operating revenue totaled $846.8 million, an increase of 4 percent over revenue of $812.9 million in 1997. The 1998 year included 53 weeks, compared to 52 weeks in 1997. (Operating losses from investments in Internet-related activities are included in Other Businesses.)
The Washington Post recorded a wide range of achievements. The most important and far-reaching accomplishment was the completion of The Post's new printing facilities. This project included building a new plant in College Park, Maryland; expanding and modernizing The Post's plant in Springfield, Virginia; and replacing all of the paper's letterpress presses with eight new offset machines. The project, originally budgeted for $250 million, was brought in for $230 million. Conversion of all production to the new presses was completed in January 1999 and enabled The Post to introduce several improvements. These included color on the front page and elsewhere in the paper, standard organization of sections and features, better black-and-white reproduction, new color advertising positions, and increased zoning of news and advertising. The introduction of a narrower and shorter newspaper provided an easier-to-handle format for readers and will save significantly on newsprint.
Advertising revenue increased 4 percent to $630.1 million, from $604.1 million in 1997. The Post had a strong revenue picture through most of the first eight months of the year. However, when the stock market declined sharply in the fall, advertising slowed at The Post as well. Although the climate began to improve in November, retail advertising volume was off 7.5 percent for the year, and classified was up only 0.4 percent. General advertising was essentially flat. Low unemployment and continued growth of the region's technology sector contributed to robust results in recruitment advertising, which was a $150 million business in 1998. Preprints also were strong, rising 6.5 percent to more than 1.6 billion pieces.
Circulation declined, falling 1.3 percent both daily and Sunday. This is a primary concern of Post management. However, readership and household penetration have remained very high. The Post also had a remarkable achievement during the year. In the face of new plants, new presses, and new distribution procedures, the paper's home delivery distributors set an all-time record for fewest circulation complaints.
In order to stay competitive beyond its core, in circulation areas where the region's population is growing, The Post in 1998 launched another new outer-county section, in Southern Maryland. The Post also introduced an expanded weekly section in Prince George's County.
The National Weekly Edition of The Post, with a circulation of approximately 81,000, continues to serve a national readership with a strong interest in news about politics, foreign affairs, and public policy.
The Washington Post Writers Group in 1998 reported significant gains in revenue from international sales and from its worldwide photo and text reprint business. Despite difficult economic conditions in some parts of the world, international revenue rose 20 percent. The Writers Group will launch two new comics in the spring of 1999.
The Herald (Everett, WA) enjoyed exceptionally strong advertising revenues, which led to record operating profits and margins. Thanks to a strong economy and a commitment to investing in sales, sales support, and new products, company-wide revenues grew almost 10 percent compared to 1997, and overall operating income rose 16 percent.
Foremost among the 1998 highlights was the April launch of a new business publication targeted at business owners in Everett and the surrounding areas of Snohomish County. First-year revenues exceeded the launch plan by 16 percent.
Gazette Newspapers posted its fifth straight year of solid growth in operating income, led by a record year in classified advertising, business and technology publications, and commercial printing. Circulation for Gazette Newspapers' 30 free community newspapers and one paid-circulation weekly is now 433,000 copies. The company launched six weekly newspapers in 1998, all in Prince George's County, where circulation now totals 110,000 copies. The Montgomery Gazette, a weekend edition circulated statewide, received the General Excellence Award from Suburban Newspapers of America.
By Milton Coleman
I can't recall exactly where I was at each of the final mileposts of the Watergate scandal 25 years ago. I know where I was not, however: in the newsroom of The Washington Post. I came two years later, in 1976.
But on Saturday, February 6, 1999, the day that Monica Lewinsky told her story in public for the first time, I was there. Not in the Senate, where her videotaped testimony was played. But in The Post's fifth-floor newsroom, as the weekend duty officer in charge of the front page of the next day's newspaper.
As deputy managing editor, my primary responsibility is to run the newsroom personnel office. I also coordinate much of the strategic development of regional zoning at The Post. And as the titular number-three editor in the newsroom, I am occasionally in charge during the week and on weekends.
The front page of The Washington Post in many respects is where the newspaper comes together 365 days a year, the journalistic best foot forward of more than 600 professionals. It's also a snapshot of sorts of who and where we are as a newsroom.
This front page was only the second Sunday edition to be printed in full color on our new presses. Barely a month earlier, we silenced forever the ancient black-and-white presses in our downtown Washington headquarters. So be it. The work we do is no longer as black and white as it was a generation ago.
That Sunday's front page was crowned with a superbly crafted news report on the findings of 29 Post reporters dispersed hither and yon to chronicle a day in the life of city services in the nation's capital. A quarter century after Watergate, we are still first and foremost a local newspaper. Extraordinary enterprise journalism like this article is what our core readers throughout the ever-expanding local region expect from The Washington Post.
As fine a story as this was, we could not simply plop it atop the front page and assume the readers would come. Visual appeal is very much a part of newspapering today. There are no more old gray ladies.
So to accompany the story we used a full-color montage of two graphic elements: digital images of basic D.C. government documents--including a driver's license, a library card, and a parking ticket--surrounding the stern-faced image of Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who has pledged to end the "tyranny of those DMV lines." Staffer John Anderson produced the illustration in about an hour. Just a decade ago, when computer software was less advanced, this task would have taken two days.
News photography in The Washington Post also has changed dramatically in that time. Then, we did not have an award-winning photo department. Nor did we have Joe Elbert, the head of that staff who has schooled our top editors on how to choose and present images more effectively.
All four photographs on that Sunday front page contained at least one of the elements that Joe says make news photography most compelling--emotion and intimacy. The centerpiece photo, recommended by assistant photo editor Luis Rios, showed Jordan's Queen Noor. Her eyes were closed and her fingers laced before her as if she were pleading in prayer, as she thanked well-wishers outside the hospital where her husband, King Hussein, lay, a single sunset away from death. The image was riveting, especially in full color.
The three news editors with whom I worked most directly that day--Cheney Baltz, Laurel Dalrymple, and Nicole Werbeck--are all women, all young. All worked in color images and electronic page design before they joined The Post, where the arrival this year of those twin technologies is dramatically changing our work and our workplace. And all three fit the bill for Post news editors of the future--solid news judgment, graphic creativity, and the computer-based wherewithal to put it all together, on deadline.
Women now make up 40 percent of our newsroom staff. The two editors who directed the Clinton impeachment story for The Post are Karen DeYoung and Susan Glasser. Karen has been a pioneer who, in more than 20 years in this business, has been a foreign correspondent on four continents and led our national news coverage for eight years. Susan is a relatively recent arrival. She was a first grader when Nixon resigned the presidency.
One of every six professionals in our newsroom is an ethnic minority. A few office conversations take place in Spanish. More so than many other newspapers, we've learned that journalistic excellence comes in many flavors.
It was once an adage of American newspaper journalism that if you beat the competition on Sunday, you were ahead for the entire week. Nowadays, Sunday competition is about half a dozen other newspapers, plus television, news magazines, and cyberspace. washingtonpost.com is our cyberspace warrior. In the battles of ink on paper, however, our fundamental weapon is still the grace, thoughtfulness, and power of the written word.
This front page was punctuated in the lower right corner by a story headlined "Still Groovin' on the '60s"--a thought piece of sorts about nostalgia, television, and pop culture. Even on the front page of The Washington Post, there's room to ponder the not-so-ancient lyricist's probing query: What is hip?
This newspaper dare not become passé.