Last month the Erik Wemple Blog wrote a piece arguing that Mike Allen’s daily “Playbook,” a Politico newsletter for Beltway insiders, gave adoring coverage to the companies and special interests that serve as advertisers. Goldman Sachs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, BP — all of them, noted the story, could bank on positive items by Allen in his routine writings.
Despite several requests for comment, Politico turned us down.
Nearly two weeks later, we finally get a response from the Rosslyn-based outlet, courtesy of the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. The show today welcomed Politico CEO Jim VandeHei for a chat about the media, most notably the expansion of Politico to New York via its acquisition and re-launch of Capital New York, a project that includes the extension of the “Playbook” concept to the Empire State. Amid the chatter about how VandeHei & Co. are approaching New York politics and media, the Politico boss was asked about the Mike Allen story on this blog. VandeHei was dismissive:
Yeah, I thought the piece was nonsense, which is why we didn’t play ball with him on it. I mean, Mike Allen has written Playbook now 365 days a year for six years. We’ve done, what, thousands of Playbooks, which has had hundreds of thousands of items. I’m sure he could find any pattern he wants to if he wanted to dissect all the Playbook entries that we’ve had over seven years. Mike Allen is one of the best reporters that I’ve known in Washington, one of the fairest, has the sort of highest ideals of anybody I know. So the product is rock-solid, it’s silly to insinuate that — like, why would we do that? There’s no business interest to do it. Mike would have no business interest to do it. I love Playbook, it’s the reason we’re replicating it here in New York. And it’s the reason it’s arguably the most influential newsletter, arguably the most influential e-mail, that goes out every morning in the country.
Points of confirmation:
1) Yes, they didn’t play ball on it.
2) Mike Allen has indeed written “Playbook” for years, at a superhuman pace and consistency.
3) “Playbook” clocks in at hundreds of thousands of items, at least.
4) Mike Allen is one of Washington’s top journalists.
5) VandeHei loves “Playbook.”
6) “Playbook” is “arguably” the most influential thing ever written.
Points of refutation:
1) “Playbook” is massive. Given the amount of copy in the “Playbook” archive, there’s no question that many patterns and tendencies can be identified, including the ones in the Mike Allen story. That explains why the Erik Wemple Blog tried repeatedly to get Politico to challenge or refute the findings that we’d put together. It never obliged.
2) “There’s no business interest.” Here, VandeHei appears to be saying that Politico has nothing to gain from pleasing its advertisers. That’s inconceivable.
3) The Erik Wemple Blog stands by the story.