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February 10, 2008

Dear Washington Post

WashingtonThe Washington Post has run three articles recently that give me hope for changes in the daily paper.  The first was a short mention stating that readership among women 18 to 49 has plummeted.  The second was a blurb at the bottom of an inside page telling us "a Post readership committee is soliciting ideas from women ages 18 to 49 with children younger than 18 at home."  The third is the promotion of Katharine Weymouth to CEO of Washington Post Media.  (Congratulations, Katharine!)  As a mom with three young children at home, I'm hoping that she understands.

I happen to love the Post.  I have always loved it.  As a young girl growing up in Mississippi, I envied the thick sheafs of newsprint, the carefully researched editorials, the features that depended on sending the writer to farflung countries over time.  I loved the rare opportunity to sink in and read it on the rare occasion, and I was more than delighted to discover that the Post delivered to my college dorm when I went away to school.  I read every word, catching up on the politics, the current affairs, the world events that my local paper had only skimmed over.  It was my entry into a different world.

But now I'm living in a world far different than the one depicted in the Post.  Instead of cannons, I have whispers.  Instead of opera, I have rhythm sticks.  Instead of fashion, I have two little boys who grow out of their clothes almost as fast as I can buy them new ones.

And I find myself astride two worlds.

Of course I want to know everything about the war, the election, the candidates, the starving children in Africa.  But I also need to know everything I can about keeping a newborn alive, feeding a toddler's mind, choosing and actually sending my first child off to preschool, watching for developmental delays and what they might mean, and, of course, the big transition to kindergarten.  I'd also like to read about what infants know, even though I no longer have one at home.  I'd read articles about how different families carve out family time, and which restauraunts in our area are more happy to have us than others.  I'd be interested in profiles of women thinking of going back to work, transitioning back to work, or thinking about staying home now that their children are older.  Perhaps a weekly column on "The Balance" between work and family would be in order.  There are so many topics that The Post and other "mainstream media" outlets just don't cover, but out here in the blogosphere we wrestle with every day.

That's the other gaping hole, of course.  There is very little interesection between life as depicted in the Washington Post and life out in the hundreds of thousands of families that have their own blogs and tell it like it really is.  Women age 18 to 49 with children are going out and finding other sources for their news -- the news that is vital to them as they raise their children, no matter what else they balance in their lives.  The Post risks being a thing of the past, a tradition, just one more thing to recycle, if it doesn't see this and adapt.

I think the editors see this now.

I hope that they choose to adapt.

My two concrete suggestions for the committee are these:  Add a weekly section to the paper called "Raising Children" and introduce us to some new voices willing to talk about the experience.  If staff time and money are tight, invite guest editorials from the community.  There are many talented women at home right now reading WashingtonPost.com and writing on their own blog sites ... wouldn't you want some of them writing for you?

Susan writes about her experience raising children and fighting cancer at Toddler Planet, twitters as @whymommy, and is still tickled by this get-well blogger video card, on YouTube.


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