Are the Washington Post’s editorial and business divisions on a collision course?

This Washington Post story about the financial condition of the Washington Post Co. is illuminating. Unsurprisingly, but worryingly, its newspaper and online divisions are big money losers. Somewhat surprising is that its education division, Kaplan, is also a financial drain.

And yet, overall, the Post is making money, reporting “sharply higher earnings in the third quarter of this year.” What’s keeping them afloat is the Post’s broadcast division:

The broadcast division fared best. Revenue jumped 44 percent, to $106.4 million, in the third quarter, and operating income more than doubled, to $54.1 million, compared with the third quarter of 2011. Political advertising revenue rose $15.6 million at the company’s three stations in Florida, two in Texas and one in Michigan. Advertising linked to the Olympics on the company’s NBC affiliates provided an additional $10.8 million. Even without those, the broadcast stations’ revenue increased.

It’s interesting that such a huge chunk of their revenue stream comes from political advertising. Editorially, the paper has continued to support campaign finance reform and to take a strong stand against super-PACs and Citizens United-type funding. This is laudable. But given the fact that political ad revenue is now the company’s lifeblood, it remains to be seen how long the editorial division can maintain its independence on this front. The paper’s editorial values may be on a collision course with the company’s bottom line.

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee