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Cost-cutting continues at the financially troubled Washington Post. According to an internal memo sent out by Vice President for Human Resources Wayne Connell, the paper is canceling its tuition reimbursement program at the end of the month.

Now, that alone wouldn’t be very surprising. Tuition reimbursement is a pretty great perk! But take a look at the ominous language in Connell’s email:

We realize that many of you have relied on this benefit to enhance your professional development. With our current financial challenges, however, we must balance providing the most essential employee benefits with our urgent need to reduce costs.

If some of that “urgent need to reduce costs” applies to the paper’s personnel, management might notice some new redundancies. In an email to the newsroom yesterday, Managing Editor John Temple talked about how the paper is automating more website functions “if human intervention doesn’t result in a significant benefit to our readers.”

Shades of John Henry, only this time, his opponent is the content management system instead of a steam-powered hammer. Here’s Temple’s entire memo:

One way we’re innovating at the Washington Post is by examining some of the basic things we do and automating them if human intervention doesn’t result in a significant benefit to our readers.

One area we’re finding success is section fronts. Politics remade their section front after the election and readers immediately began to click through to more stories. World created a robust page that balances their reporters’ content, their blog and aggregation from other sites. Local and the fourth floor features sections are also experimenting with automating their pages.

See some examples here:

This frees up producers to focus more on digital storytelling packages and creates a stream of content that readers seem to find useful in surfacing new stories.

The Methode team moved the automation process forward too, by creating a better story template for our sections. The templates can now save Metadata and story packages, to reduce the amount of time writers and editors have to spend filling out repetitive data on each story. Talk to your section’s digital editor if you’d like to experiment with a story template.

Another step we’ve taken to simplify our operation is unifying homepage production, merging the regional and national homepage under the UND. This means that we don’t have two teams of people that have to stay abreast of what’s going on in Sports, Style, etc.

These are housekeeping innovations, but nonetheless important changes. Any questions, contact innovators@washpost.com.


John Temple/Melissa Bell