Online, the devolving Washington Post!


Tabloid piffle is them: On occasion in the past, we've mentioned the way the online version of the Washington Post seemed to be devolving into a type of tabloidism.

Today, the Post announces that its long-running Sunday Outlook section will no longer be published. That makes this a good day to examine the decline of this devolving newspaper.

As we've noted in the past, the print edition of the Post still resembles a traditional newspaper. Starting on page A1, the most significant news reports appear in its initial section, with sports and entertainment reports shoved to the back of the bus.

Online, the devolving Washington Post seems to be in open revolt against such elitism. Consider the state of the paper's front page in today's online edition.

More specifically, our question is this:

How far down the online front page does a reader have to scroll to reach the WORLD and NATIONAL news sections? And now much dreck will that reader encounter before such sections appear?


The reader must scroll well more than halfway down the page to find those news sections. The dreck will be general over America as that scrolling proceeds.

Briefly, let's be fair! At the very top of the online Post's front page, three semi-traditional news reports instantly appear today, one atop the other. Here are the headlines on those three reports:

Ukrainian troops drive abandoned Russian tanks on new front line

Death on a train: A tragedy that helped fuel the railroad showdown

Forget the private jet and limo. Most world leaders relegated to buses for queen’s funeral.

You'll note that the second and third of these reports already seem to be turning in the direction of "human interest." (Major world leaders stuck on a bus!) But at that point, a new section appears: ONLY FROM THE POST.

Four reports appear in this section, with headlines presented from left to right in smaller font. In our view, the first two of these reports extend the tabloidy feel:

Missing people, buried bones at center of Oklahoma mystery

In cowboy country, the cradle of American masculinity, a mom tries to raise her boy to be a good man

Below that section, the front page offers large billing to four more news reports. Here are three of the headlines:

Could ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ really be done? We found out.

Can the Sunday morning talk show be saved?

College football winners and losers: Appalachian State survives with 53-yard Hail Mary

Let's be fair! By now, the Post actually has presented a certain rather limited number of traditional news reports. That said, those reports have been heavily interwoven with tabloidy human interest material—and after this, the deluge:

The next section a reader meets as he scrolls down the page is the all-important ADVICE section. Four headlines are offered there:

Carolyn Hax: Can a married person comfort unhappily single friends?

Ask Damon: My son quit college to work for a misogynist influencer

Miss Manners: My kids and grandkid live with me but don’t help out

Ask Amy: Should I join my husband to tell his parents we’re getting divorced?

We're now about a quarter of the way down the lengthy front page. Some traditional news reports have appeared, but we still have a long way to go before we reach the sections devoted to WORLD or NATIONAL news.

Our next major section is called THE WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE. Four headlines are offered, including these:

Date Lab: She had to crane her neck to get a good look at him

The secrets and messages of the chairs where politicians sit

Next comes a section called DON'T MISS. The four headlines include these:

An ode to the scrunchie, the ’80s fashion invention we never forgot

He plays college football in North Dakota. He’s 49.

Below that comes a section called FOR YOU. Two of the four headlines:

Carolyn Hax: How to deal with in-laws’ constant fat-phobic comments

In the copycat NFL, now everyone wants a new-school offensive-minded whiz kid

Next, we hit the section called WELL + BEING. The first three reports (of five) are these:

Are soul mates real, according to science?

Why it is awesome that your brain can experience awe

12 questions to measure your workplace happiness

It's awesome that your brain can experience awe. What your brain can't yet experience, on the front page of this sliding newspaper, is a section of reports devoted to WORLD or NATIONAL news!

The reader has now scrolled almost halfway down the online Post's extremely lengthy front page. The next section, WHAT WE'RE WATCHING, recommends four movies or TV shows the reader can enjoy.

Soon, we move past the halfway point of the paper's front page, and we actually hit a section which bears this title: WORLD. But before we hit the NATIONAL section, we must scroll past such dreck as these reports from the LIFESTYLE section:

Design pros share their favorite autumn-scented candles

The new coupon-cutting: Apps that sell discounted food headed for the trash

Going with the flow on an impulsive trip to Thailand

If the reader of the online Post is still "going with the flow," he or she will finally reach the section devoted to NATIONAL news.  The reader will then encounter the section devoted to POLITICS. 

In each case, the reader will have scrolled roughly two-thirds of the way down the online Post's extremely lengthy front page. An endless array of pointless distractions will, by then, have been offered.

On a daily basis, the reader of the online Post will in fact encounter a few traditional news reports at the top of the site's front page. That said, these reports will quickly be interwoven with an endless array of tabloidized piffle—the kind of fare which still tends to be relegated to steerage in the Post's print editions.

Online, the reader will hit the piffle quite quickly. There is little sense that the major purpose of the paper is the presentation of WORLD or NATIONAL news.

Given major changes in revenue sources, newspapers like the Post are trying to sell boatloads of subscriptions. As at the clownishly sillified Slate, so too here:

Dumbing it down—way, way down—seems to be the fairly obvious method of choice. To wit:

Long before you reach the section called CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT, you'll learn about "the new coupon-cutting." 

You'll be waylaid by "an ode to the scrunchie." You'll be given ways to measure your workplace happiness. 

"Design pros" will bring you up to date concerning their favorite "autumn-scented candles." Also, Carolyn Hax will tell you how to deal with your in-laws' unkind remarks.

After today, the weekly Outlook section will no longer exist at the Washington Post. We've long been puzzled by the fact that this iconic Sunday section didn't appear, in any way, in the newspaper's online editions.

As of today, we understand why! Outlook was built around seriousness of purpose and attempts at erudition. Increasingly, those qualities seem to be artefacts of our rapidly failing nation's journalistic past. 

Today we have naming of sections: As of today, this is the order of the sections found on the (lengthy) front page of the online Washington Post:


The list of sections continues from there. You'll note that the scrolling reader still hasn't reached the section set aside for news from the D.C. region.

We've long been troubled by the way the online Post is devolving in the direction of the trivial and the tedious.

In print, the Post still resembles a traditional newspaper. Online, not nearly so much!


  1. The Post should focus more on explaining the root of economic anxiousness driving Republican voters.
    It might piss off the politically correct Right, but it'll be a service to the Post's other readers.

    1. Why would the politically correct Right be pissed off if WaPo reported persistent high inflation and a plunging stock market?

    2. If the post explained simple economics to the politically correct right (whatever that means) it would fall on deaf ears. Joe Biden is the responsible party for US inflation, they are told by Rupert Murdoch's minions, despite the fact that inflation is higher in the EU ( and Europe in general, even more so). Acknowledging this fact, not to mention the sorry states of Russian and Chinese economies would upset the contrived grievances that partisan hacks on the right feed to their audiences, who are generally simple minded in their overwhelming desire to blame the current administration on a multinational economic phenomenon. When supply chain issues brought the economy down during Trump's term, I don't recall the Fox bobble heads blaming Trump. Economic disruption from the war in Ukraine, the market manipulation by Opec, and continued supply chain issues involving China and semiconductors are all.apparently occurring because of the Biden administration. This makes perfect sense to rubes that watch right wing media without the synaptic discipline to question what they are spoon fed. It's not convenient politically for them to understand how the world works.

    3. You'll have to excuse David in Cal for being a little bitchy, having to pretend he doesn't support a treasonous corrupt asshole. David seems to have forgotten that the phrase "economic anxiousness" was the excuse used by his fascist racist team in 2016 and has fuck all to do with the current economic situation.


  2. tl;dr
    For chrissake, dear Bob.

    Who would want to read neocon-infested dembot Bezos' vanity paper these days? Seriously?, probably, are the only one, dear...

  3. Somerby appears to have noticed that the term "front page" doesn't apply to an online format. He also seems to dimly understand that most people's lives do not revolve around politics. It should be a short step for him to accept that what he calls "tabloidy," other people call daily life.

    And that is part of Somerby's mistake today. The phrase tabloid journalism used to refer to: "...a popular style of largely sensationalist journalism (usually dramatized and sometimes unverifiable or even blatantly false)," but the content of the Washington Post is not like that, simply because it appeals to human interest. And there is nothing inherently wrong with human interest stories, not even with prioritizing reading them ahead of political news.

    Somerby has never understood the economic aspects of supporting online journalism. If a paper such as the Washington Post needs to appeal to a broader audience in order to stay afloat, so be it. Further, most people no longer get their news from newspapers. There are many other online sources for that hard news. On the other hand, most people actually care about other people!

    If Somerby waits a year or two, no doubt they will have invented customizable newspapers that show you the stuff you like to read first and put the news other people like to read at the bottom. That day is not far off.

  4. "We've long been troubled by the way the online Post is devolving in the direction of the trivial and the tedious."

    Yeah, other people are so trivial and tedious -- who wants to read about them? Those sections should be called "human disinterest" in Somerby's version of the Post.

  5. It does seem to me that our lives have become more complicated. Having a ready source of info to help navigate those complexities seems like a good idea to me.

    Has anyone else noticed that the new NAEP scores came out weeks ago and Somerby has not yet talked about the impact of the pandemic on kids school performance?

  6. "Dumbing it down—way, way down—seems to be the fairly obvious method of choice. "

    Somerby considers all those articles on topics he lacks interest in to be "dumbing it down," as if only dumb people care when their kids drop out of college for frivolous reasons, and only dumb people care about football or scrunchies (here, Somerby conflates being female with being dumb). Is it really dumb to feel bad when your in-laws call you fat? Or does Somerby just lack a certain kind of empathy?

  7. Here is the lead story on today's online NY Times:

    "As American feminists came together in 2017 to protest Donald Trump, Russia’s disinformation machine set about deepening the divides among them."

    This was followed by two stories about threats to American Democracy. Then three stories covering the Ukraine war. Followed by a story about Trump's accounting firm turning over documents to congress.

    The editorials and op-eds were listed along the right hand column.

    This looks like the kind of reporting Somerby says he craves. Why doesn't he read the NY Times, if he dislikes the new format of the Washington Post? This is a free country and he can read (or avoid) whatever he wants.

    Personally, I think he saw a big picture of ladies in pussy hats and headed for the hills. There are no women in news reporting...

  8. DeSantis's stunt may hurt him in his own election:

    "Politico: “The move by DeSantis dominated the radio and television airwaves in South Florida — where large swaths of Hispanic voters live. One Spanish radio host loudly denounced the move and even compared DeSantis’ actions to that of deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who relocated Cubans in the early ‘60s.”

    1. That’s why they’re so upset with De Santis.

  9. At his Ohio rally:

    "Said Trump: “They go in to people that know me, and they threaten them with jail time. They go in, and they take good people, and they say ‘you’re going to jail for ten years, you’re going to jail for five years unless you say something bad about Trump, in which case you won’t have to go to jail.”

    This is called plea-bargaining, and it only works when someone has committed a crime themselves, for which they are about to be charged. Avoiding jail depends on telling the truth about Trump (or whoever else is involved). If they are found to have lied, the deal is off.

    It amazes me when criminals are outraged that the government would attempt to convict them of their wrongdoing.

  10. Benjamin Wallace-Wells pointed out, ..."that the best way to unify a party of the right these days is to mercilessly attack educated progressives wherever they can be found: in politics, the media, education, business, or wherever."

    This Somerby's agenda here, 24/7. Even when he is critical of Carlson, his main effort is to attack liberals, especially in the media but also in universities and education and government.

    Educated people are interested in a wider variety of topics than those who are uneducated. A well-rounded education introduces students to an array of disciplines, giving them a basic introduction so that they can understand what they will read as they go out into the world. Curiosity is highly valued in academia (and many other fields), but Somerby today stomps all over the idea that people could have diverse interests that they wish to satisfy by reading the morning paper. Being curious and finding out about things is one of the chief joys of educated people. Teachers are supposed to nourish that tendency (found in most children).

    But not Somerby. He mocks the things others might find interesting, suggesting that newspapers are only for news, as he narrowly defines it. If it doesn't have the word "Ukraine" in it, a story belongs in the tabloids. If an actor is involved, Somerby consigns the story to oblivion, because phooey on the arts, music, drama, macrame and knitting.

    I found myself wondering how Somerby, a former teacher and standup performer, could be so narrow, until I realized that he isn't so blinkered -- he is doing his job for Putin by attacking the values of the left about education and knowledge. How much money would cause a former educator to put his name on an essay like today's? Somerby should be ashamed.

  11. The scrunchie is topical because its inventor recently died.

  12. Trump sounded so depressed at his rally in Ohio, it was as if he wanted to throw himself in the river. Will that tone (enhanced by the sad music) really encourage anyone to vote for him? He sounds like he barely has the will power to stand upright (and he is leaning on the podium at the end). Who advised him to present himself that way? Does he know what he sounds like?

    Actually, he sounds a lot like Somerby, after he tells us we are sliding into the sea. Is that the latest message for scaring the rubes into voting away their freedoms? The planes have no pilots, Trump says, but that makes it OK since there are no air traffic controllers either. So sad, makes me want to cry for him, but if he is that unhappy with his gold toilets, I feel fortunate that mine is porcelain.

    1. Eye of the beholder. A right wing colleague told me how well Trump did, talking for upwards of 40 minutes without, apparently, a teleprompter. I dunno, I've seen random sad sacks pontificating their grievances on busy street corners for longer than that.

  13. The Post's audience is mentally deranged liberal "dog moms" and "wine moms" and other single women who hate men. Taylor Lorenz is their idea of a towering intellect. When you understand that, the dreck in that worthless publication makes sense.

    1. Right, women readers deserve no respect at all.

    2. Somebody pissed on 5:17's Elliot Rodger poster.

  14. Somerby, apparently unaware of how to navigate a web site.

    In the upper left hand corner of the main page are three bars. Click on this and you get a list of links to all the sections in the online paper, including “World” and “National”, etc. mostly in alphabetical order. It’s like a table of contents. Kind of gets you to the stories you want faster . It’s 2022. Get used to it.

  15. Oh, and by the way, Bob can even bookmark the sections he’s interested in and go directly to them!

    For a fee, I can provide tutoring. Or he can ask any random 6 year old.