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Linda Douglass, former Obama aide, rejoins mainstream media

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010; 5:51 AM

Linda Douglass, the veteran network correspondent who became President Obama's chief health care spokeswoman, is heading back to journalism.

She is joining the Atlantic as a vice president at a time when David Bradley's media operation is attempting something of a digital transformation -- and hiring no fewer than 30 journalists for National Journal.

"My role is helping the company get the visibility and recognition it deserves," says Douglass, who left the Obama administration two months ago. "It is chock-full of smart analysts and great writers. We have a chance to play a really important role in the Washington conversation."

Bradley says Douglass will concentrate on company strategy and communications -- joining his "senior cabinet" -- in an effort to "build up the brand names" of both his magazines and their writers. In the past, he says, "it was perfectly fine being something all your grandparents read. but for getting attention, getting links, attracting talent, it looks like famous now matters."

Douglass brings a bit of fame from both sides of the media/political complex. After a career spent mostly at ABC and CBS, Douglass joined National Journal, where she was a radio host and contributing editor (and wrote a cover story on John McCain), and Bradley says he "hated losing her" when she joined the Obama campaign as traveling press secretary.

While her political tenure "troubles me not at all" for the corporate part of the job, Bradley says, he sees a "blinking red light" when she gets involved with the journalistic side, especially as it involves the president or health care. But, adds Bradley, "she's too big an editorial talent for us to keep her out of the editorial product."

Douglass says any editorial role is "very much up in the air" but that her experience helps: "I've had the good fortune to see the media operate from all sides. I'm not assigning reporters' stories and telling them how to write them."

In an effort to remake National Journal, a premium policy weekly that costs subscribers nearly $2,000 a year, Bradley has created a unified newsroom that includes his other properties, such as the Hotline and Congress Daily. He also offered buyouts to his 106-person NJ staff, and 30 people took the offer. Now he's conducting "the biggest talent search in the history of National Journal" -- as well as looking for a new editor -- for journalists with multimedia skills. In an age of shrinking news organizations, the hiring binge has attracted about 250 résumés so far.

Midterm Jumble

Some journalists are candidly admitting that we didn't learn much about the country's political direction on Tuesday. Instead, it was an uneven collection of local results. As Washington Monthly's Steve Benen says, "For my money, the moral of the story is that there is no moral to the story. On the same day, in different parts of the country, we saw completely contradictory trends."

But there were plenty of interesting threads in the tapestry of individual races, most notably in Blanche Lincoln beating the union-backed Bill Halter in Arkansas after many pundits had all but written her off.

"Lincoln's victory, after she failed to avert a runoff in the May 18 primary, proved so satisfying that a smug Democratic establishment couldn't help but rub it in the left's face -- and particularly in the faces of the major unions," Politico says.

" 'Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,' a senior White House official told POLITICO. 'If even half that total had been well targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.' . . .


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