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Super Mike, Politico's star
But is even a master aggregator a Washington power broker? (Allen breaks some stories, too, but that's not the reason he became a cover boy.) Or is he a symbol of the clout of Politico, whose fast-paced metabolism has upended the established journalistic order headed by, yes, the New York Times?
There's another possibility: that the story was written from deep within the Beltway bubble, by and for Washington insiders. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it means Allen's influence may be contained to a limited sphere, like the ruler of a tiny island kingdom.
I always had the sense that the most important journalists were the investigative types, or those who covered the hell out of the White House or Justice Department or the oft-ignored regulatory agencies, and could dig out news we'd never otherwise learn -- before the next Toyota crash or mine collapse.
The insiders have been chattering about this, naturally, including Marc Ambinder:
"In this incarnation of Mike life, he is fulfilling a space that powerful decision makers do need -- they want curated aggregation because they don't have time to read 100 pieces a day, much less the time to choose those pieces. (I would much rather have Mike aggregate for me than Matt Drudge.) They share a sensibility with Mike. Indeed, it is a transactional sensibility. And this is not meant as a knock against Mike, but as a way of pulling everyone out of a trap: as influential as Mike is, and he knows this, a page one New York Times story by Peter Baker on a subject will set the agenda far more than Mike's daily messaging will. The White House understands this, too.
"I don't know whether President Obama reads the Playbook. I do know, thanks to selected White House leaks, that he's fond of long magazine articles and profiles, and thoughtful bloggers, and Ron Brownstein's analysis. The president's staff may need curation, but the man himself has different curatorial preferences.
"Mike's reporting/aggregating/curating is useful to a subset of people, and it's also transparent in its motivations and intentions. And despite the fact that it merits a New York Times Magazine cover story, despite the fact that it may influence morning meetings at TV networks, there are many other sources of influence. Chuck Todd has more influence over how politics will be covered on the NBC Nightly News that Mike Allen. (Allen might influence Morning Joe's coverage, but then, Morning Joe's audience is Mike Allen's audience -- so who is influencing whom?)
"Mike's powerful voice is one among many. Heck, a well-written New York Post headline can drive entire news cycles even today. So can a Glenn Greenwald column about Elena Kagan. So can, as I discovered, a late night blog post about some dumb remark Harry Reid made."
WP's Ian Shapira says: "I felt a bit sad, both for Allen and the future of journalism. . . . Given Allen's experience and doggedness, wouldn't it be better if he were working on longer-term stories or investigations that served the public good? In other words, is Playbook really the best use of Allen's talents?"
Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg also challenges the Times profile of Allen:
"He is, as advertised, kind, sympathetic, devout, and manically hard-working, but I'm not sure I agree with Leibovich's premise, that Mike's Politico Playbook makes him the most important journalist in Washington. . . .
"I would also nominate, by the way, Mark Leibovich as a potential 'Most Important Journalist,' because of his ability to make his profile subjects look like rock stars, on the one hand, and to make others look like complete idiots, on the other (I'm sure John Kerry would agree.). . . .