This mindset is evident both in the prose of Politico’s writers and in the way the publication has responded to its critics. After Salon’s Greenwald e-mailed Politico reporter Mike Allen with questions about the paper’s relationship with Drudge, for example, Harris replied with a 1200-word e-mail and gave Greenwald permission to post it online. As controversy over the use and origins of “slow bleed” mounted, meanwhile, Harris wrote a column in which he regretfully copped to being the guy responsible. Politico also published a 900-word critique by MMA’s Simon Maloy, titled “Is Politico a GOP Shill?” (It also ran a 2400-word response from Harris, VandeHei, and reporter Ben Smith, which may have been a bit much.)
Over time, this responsiveness and transparency should help Politico establish itself as a distinctive journalistic brand. (It’s hard to imagine, say, the New York Times running an op-ed from a critic accusing it of liberal bias.) It may even convince the publication’s critics that their early concerns were overblown. But despite a deep-pocketed owner (Allbritton is the former CEO and chairman of Riggs National Corp., a Washington banking company best known for its ties to Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator) and several partnerships with established media outlets — most notably, a content-sharing arrangement with USA Today — Politico will have to establish itself as a must-read among the nation’s political elite if it’s going to thrive and survive.
Early results are mixed. When I asked Steve Grossman, the former Massachusetts Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee Chairman, what he thought of Politico so far, he admitted he didn’t know what it was. One long-time Boston Democratic consultant told me that he reads the site regularly, but might stop unless Politico starts breaking more high-impact stories. “I still go there every day,” he said. “But at some point, I’m just going to fall off.”
Dominick Ianno — a Republican media consultant at the Boston firm Gray Media, which is working for John McCain’s presidential campaign — was more upbeat. (He is, after all, a Republican.) “They’ve certainly put together a top-notch team, and they’ve really established themselves as a must-read,” said Ianno. “But their big challenge is going to be in the post-presidential era. Right now, they’re in the midst of a pretty wide-open presidential race — but after the campaign’s over, can this continue to be a go-to site and newspaper?”
Good question. Check back in 2009.
On the Web
Adam Reilly's Media Log: http://www.thephoenix.com/medialog