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Politico: Niche Web Site Isn't Yet A Notch Above

John Harris, left, editor in chief of the Web site for political junkies, and Jim VandeHei, executive editor, are former reporters for The Post.
John Harris, left, editor in chief of the Web site for political junkies, and Jim VandeHei, executive editor, are former reporters for The Post. (Byjacquelyn Martin -- Associated Press)

The Web site, which drew about 488,000 visitors in its first four days, is competing for advertising in a different arena: with Slate, Salon, National Review Online, Huffington Post, Instapundit and countless political blogs. Harris, for his part, is relieved that he got the thing up and running in the space of one month.

"I just hope people will judge us over time," he says. "We had never expected to create a revolutionary new brand of journalism on Day One."

Footnote: The Los Angeles Times is the latest newspaper to announce that it is combining the traditional and online newsrooms to beef up its Web site, which an internal committee found is hampered by "creaky" technology and slow news updates. "As a news organization, we are not Web-savvy," the group's report says. "If anything, we are Web-stupid."

Friendly Fire

Ed Schultz, one of the most popular liberal radio hosts, is fed up with Hillary Clinton.

His show is important, Schultz wrote on his Web site, but "convincing Hillary Clinton and her arrogant handlers of that is a different battle in itself. . . . Hillary's people treat us like dirt."

Schultz, whose show is carried in 95 markets, including Washington, says in an interview that Clinton "is the hardest person to get in the Senate. Her people disregard us, they lie to us, they come up with excuses that just don't fit. . . . The irony is that Hillary is the person beat up most on talk radio and she is avoiding it, and avoiding a friendly audience."

Clinton has been rather busy of late, hitting all the network evening newscasts and morning shows, along with CNN, MSNBC and a round of appearances after President Bush's State of the Union address.

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines says his boss has "happily appeared" on Schultz's show at least half a dozen times, including her first national radio interview after being reelected. "She always enjoys speaking with Ed about the important issues of the day, admires his passion and looks forward to continuing their dialogue about our country's direction well into the future." Reines says diplomatically.

Don't Blame Us

The Washington Times did not touch the story about Hillary Clinton's camp supposedly spreading a rumor that Sen. Barack Obama, her presidential campaign rival, once attended a madrassa, a school that teaches a fundamentalist form of Islam.

The paper blew off the report even though it was carried this month by Insight, the Internet magazine owned by the same parent company.

Times Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden, calling it a "lurid account," declared in his column that Insight "is absolutely, positively and entirely separate from the newspaper." Pruden quoted from my reports in which Obama and Clinton spokesmen called the article trash, adding: "Neither this newspaper nor most others took up the story, which cited no named sources."

Insight Editor Jeffrey Kuhner concedes that "the madrassa angle on Barack Obama had not been thoroughly checked out when we posted our story," but says "our story was about the Clinton camp's opposition research on Barack Obama, which had been thoroughly checked out. . . . The story gave our readers insider knowledge about what is truly going on in the Hillary camp. . . . Contrary to misrepresentations by The Washington Post and CNN, Insight's Obama story never -- not once -- claimed that Obama attended a madrassa as a young boy."

The Insight article did say that an investigation by Obama's opponents "has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia." Both the Obama and Clinton camps have dismissed the allegations, and the deputy headmaster of the Indonesian school in question told CNN that it is a public school.

The World Is Shrinking

The Boston Globe announced last week that it is closing its remaining foreign bureaus in Israel, Germany and Colombia to avoid further layoffs. The New York Times-owned paper joins the Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Newsday and Dallas Morning News in jettisoning its last correspondents abroad, leaving international coverage to a diminishing group of big newspapers.

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