“We use these hubs to tell readers what they need to know now, what’s most urgent and most important anywhere in the world,” said Douglas Jehl, The Washington Post’s Foreign Editor.
“We want to be sure that readers can find a full and timely and robust news report from The Washington Post at any hour. This is vital for us as a global news organisation.”
Drawing in an international audience
With a presence in South Korea and the UK, The Post is able to operate as a 24-hour newsroom, with the two global hubs driving coverage of the usually paywalled live updates pages, which provide rolling news developments on major stories, such as the collapse of the Afghan government or the war in Ukraine.
“We know that readers really value that kind of live fast-paced coverage of major news events,” Jehl said.
“We’ve consistently found that it’s that storytelling, particularly on Ukraine, that is driving our biggest audiences around the world and in the United States. The economy and brevity and velocity of that kind of storytelling is really connecting with readers.”
About 30 percent of readers of the live updates on Ukraine are based outside of the United States, with The Post’s overall international audience standing at about 20 percent, Jehl said. The live coverage from the hubs has also drawn in readers from more time zones, and brought new countries to the top five of the largest audiences of The Post’s content, such as the Philippines and South Africa.
In addition to contributing to live coverage, the news hubs work on a range of content.
“It’s also about stories that we feel people need to know,” he said. “These include fun and whimsical stories that are purely interesting as well as stories on serious topics.”
A 40 percent expansion
Each of the two hubs is currently staffed with 10 people, and includes reporters, editors, copy editors, an audience editor and a visuals editor. Sara Sorcher is the lead editor in London, while Kendra Nichols is at the helm in Seoul. This year, The Post is planning to add four people to each team.
“It was a huge move last year to invest in 20 jobs in a brand new initiative around the world,” Jehl said. “The fact that we’re then adding 40 percent to each of those hubs this year is a big vote of confidence and reflects that we’ve seen even more than we expected in terms of the impact of this kind of coverage.”
To ensure an uninterrupted flow of information and smooth hand-offs, teams in the hubs collaborate and coordinate closely with each other and the D.C. newsroom. Being able to effectively pass responsibility around the world was part of the reason Seoul and London were chosen as the locations for the hubs.
“Beyond that, we wanted places in which we could draw on a good network of talent, in which we can operate efficiently and with confidence as a business, and in which the atmosphere for a free press was generally favourable,” Jehl said.
He is particularly impressed by hubs’ reporters and editors’ ability to become experts on a range of subjects quickly, and to pivot to very different kinds of stories at a moment’s notice. And while adapting to this new resource and workflow has been challenging, he said this way of operating was now built into everybody’s DNA, which “has been terrific.”
Adding correspondents around the world
The creation of the news hubs in Seoul and London is just one example of The Post’s geographic evolution.
In previous years, the organisation added correspondents to the bureaus responsible for covering Russia and China, and opened up a bureau in Kyiv this year in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, signalling its commitment to what is shaping up to be a long-running story. In addition to the staff in the London and Seoul hubs, The Post has 34 correspondents based in 26 locations outside of the United States.
“I imagine that we will continue to work to identify locations where our readers would benefit from having more Post correspondents on the ground,” Jehl said.