'WaPo' Axes NYC, LA, Chicago Bureaus

In a move that calls into question its claim to be a national newspaper, The Washington Post informed staffers Tuesday that it is closing its news bureaus in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles -- ending its permanent presence in centers of business, finance, entertainment and media.

The offices are closing effective Dec. 31, according to the memo from WaPo management, which was posted on the Washington City Paper blog Tuesday afternoon.

Most of the correspondents who worked at these bureaus will not be laid off; they are being offered new positions in Washington, the memo stated, reflecting management's decision to emphasize its competitive advantage as the daily newspaper of the nation's capital.

"At a time of limited resources and increased competitive pressure, it's necessary to concentrate our journalistic firepower on our central mission of covering Washington and the news, trends and ideas that shape both the region and the country's politics, policies and government."

The memo insisted: "We will continue to cover events around the country as we have for decades, by sending reporters into the field." Still, the closing of regional bureaus is undeniably a blow to the newspaper's prestige and its actual ability to do original reporting in those key cities.

This is the latest in a series of pullbacks by the newspaper, which has systematically cut its original coverage, in many cases filling the gaps with content-sharing agreements.

In early October, WaPo said it was launching a new news service in partnership with Bloomberg LP, boosting WaPo's business content, which took a hit with the closing of its stand-alone business section earlier this year. January 2009 brought the demise of the paper's stand-alone book review section.

In December 2008, it struck a deal with The Baltimore Sun to share local news and photos, allowing them to pool their coverage of Maryland, northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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