November 13, 2013
(Scott Eells/Bloomberg)
(Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

Politico last night warned of a “brain drain” at the New York Times: “In the past nine months, at least a dozen top reporters and editors have made for the exits.”

The perils of doing media coverage for Politico!

The New York Times has a newsroom head count exceeding 1,100 folks, according to spokeswoman Eileen Murphy. Let’s assume that “at least a dozen” means 20. Basic math then tells us that the New York Times has lost 1.8 percent of its “top” reporters and editors.

Now for Politico. Here’s a partial accounting of editors and reporters who’ve left the site in the past year:

*Franchise-anchoring reporter Jonathan Martin (New York Times)
*National Politics Editor Charles Mahtesian (NPR)
*Managing Editor Craig Gordon (Bloomberg News)
*Managing Editor Tim Grieve (National Journal)
*POLITICO Pro Managing Editor Laura McGann (MSNBC.com)*
*Assistant Managing Editor Beth Frerking (National Law Journal/Legal Times).
*VP of Video Programming David Chalian (CNN)
*Silicon Valley reporter Michelle Quinn (San Jose Mercury News)
*Financial services reporter Patrick Reis (National Journal)
Tech editor Elizabeth Wasserman (Bloomberg)
*Assistant Editor Vivyan Tran (National Journal)
*Money and politic reporter Dave Levinthal (Center for Public Integrity)
*Defense reporter Stephanie Gaskell (Atlantic Media)
*Reporter Tim Mak (Washington Examiner)

How many of those folks qualify as “top” reporters and editors is a matter of opinion. But anyone who follows Washington journalism knows that Martin is a monster reporter; McGann and Gordon were both highly regarded at Politico; Grieve was the founding editor of Politico Pro, an enterprise that reportedly tallied a 96 percent renewal rate; Chalian was viewed as the answer for Politico’s video franchise; and so on.

For the sake of argument, let’s be conservative and say that eight of the above departures count as “top” talent. Considering that Politico has about 160 newsroom employees now listed on its masthead (including the video pod), that means that the outlet has suffered a 5 percent departure rate, more than two times the rate of the New York Times.

Summon Robert Allbritton to the conference room. We’ve got a brain drain here.

Not in the view of Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris: “A lot more arrivals than departures if you consider [Rick] Berke, [Susan] Glasser, [Todd] Purdum, others . . . ”

None of this is to suggest equivalence between the brain drains at Politico and the New York Times. When people leave the New York Times, management tends to say polite and classy things about them. Once they’re out the door at Politico, this is what follows them: “We have learned the hard way that people who whine, project negativity or are complacent hurt the company, no matter how talented they might be at an individual task. We have made tremendous progress on both the editorial and business sides in wringing that out of the joint. It has been among our proudest achievements this past year.” That came from Politico’s CEO earlier this year, sliming each and every person named above.

(Disclosure: The Erik Wemple Blog formerly worked for a now-defunct news site — TBD.com — of Politico’s parent company.)

*McGann indeed left Politico but very recently rejoined the site.

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