January 7, 2013
Politico's Mike Allen (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politico’s Mike Allen (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Politico staffers commonly deploy their Twitter accounts to advance their reporting — to record John Boehner’s very latest utterance, to note who’s due to appear on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, to note reaction to the latest POTUS speech. Photographer Jay Westcott on Friday, however, broke that particular mold:

Laid off by Politico?

Those terms generally don’t get lumped together. The six-year history of the Rosslyn-based political news service, after all, boils down to a prolonged hiring spree. Editorial staffing levels now stand at 156, including the premium Politico Pro service. For months and months and months, whispers among the Politico gossip crowd have concurred that some brand names in the Politico stable would be bolting the place when their contracts expired following the 2012 election. That hasn’t happened, at least not yet.

And according to a well-placed Politico source, the exit door won’t be doing much swinging. Big names including Editor-in-Chief John Harris, Executive Editor Jim VandeHei, Chief White House Correspondent-cum-Playbook Correspondent Mike Allen, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Danielle Jones and Senior Political Reporter Maggie Haberman have all extended their Politico contracts.

On the minus side, Politico sources tell the Erik Wemple Blog that Westcott isn’t alone in getting released from Politico’s payroll, though details are scarce on precisely what is happening. The Huffington Post has the name of one other. There are reportedly only three staffers leaving.

Here’s one instance in which terminology matters a great deal. “Layoffs,” after all, sends a signal that the organization is shrinking, unable to meet its budgets with current staffing levels. If that’s the case here, it’s a giant story, given Politico’s much-discussed propensity for finding deep revenue streams flowing from coverage of the federal government. If, on the other hand, the staff moves reflect merely an effort to redirect resources to other parts of its operation, then it’s a sad, though far less consequential, story.

There’s ample reason to believe that Politico isn’t retrenching. According to an informed Politico source, the company is moving to shore up its video/TV operation, which did some critically celebrated broadcasts during the presidential campaign. It’s also going to hire more staffers to cover policy from Capitol Hill. Also on the shopping list is another high-profile political writer. Says the source: “We have 30 more Politico employees than we did at this time last year and expect our staff size to grow by 30 more in the weeks and months ahead.” Of 29 open positions, 12 are on the editorial side of operations, according to the source.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.