Monday, February 09, 2009

The Washington Post and Facebook - An Awkward Love Saga

When I saw two section-front articles about Facebook -- in as many days -- in the Washington Post last week, I grumbled. The Post has been oddly obsessed with Facebook over the past years, chronicling matters such as the demise of Scrabulous and what to do when Mom friends you.

Friday, it was a piece on the front page of Style about the whole "25 random things about me" thing (I actually thought it was kind of cute). Then on Saturday, the Metro section fronted word that Maryland's General Assembly would be blocking Facebook on its computers. Uh, good to know.

So the Washington Post is continuing its obsession with Facebook! Or so I thought.

But after reviewing the history of the Post's Facebook coverage, the story seems a bit different.


The Post first put Facebook on A1 in September of 2006, in the midst of the 'news feed' controversy. It would turn out to be beginning of a 2 year run in which the Post published 10 front page stories largely focusing on Facebook:

(Sept 2006, Oct 2006, Feb 2007, Nov 2007, March 2008, April 2008, May 2008, June 2008, July 2008, Sept 2008)

Some of them were quite serious, such as Ellen Knickmeyer's "Fledgling Rebellion on Facebook Is Struck Down by Force in Egypt." And many of the ones on lighter topics were still real news, dealing with matters such as privacy and political organizing.

Something tens of millions of Americans are doing is certainly newsworthy. But the front page, ten times, including six times within one six-month stretch? Really? (and some of the most interesting reporting -- on the matter of diet ads -- didn't even make A1).


It's now been five whole months, though, without a Facebook front-pager. Maybe we ought to be content that those two stories last week were section-front, because what's remarkable, really, is that neither was on page A1.

So why did the Post go cold-turkey on Facebook on the front? The change may have come from the top. The most recent A1 was on September 3. Just five days later, Marcus Brauchli began work as the new Executive Editor.

Coincidence? Judge for yourself.


Post a Comment

<< Home