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Politico to add new policy shop: ‘The Agenda’

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We already have The Upshot, Vox.com, Wonkblog, FiveThirtyEight and other policy-heavy news sites. This news space will get a touch more crowded early next year, when Politico launches “The Agenda.”

In a memo to Politico staffers, incoming Politico Editor Susan Glasser called “The Agenda” a “uniquely POLITICO take on the intersection of politics and policy,” which is one of the most vicious clichés ever to be repeated 1.4 billion times in Washington journalism circles. More from Glasser on “The Agenda”: “One thing we can say for sure is that it will be wonkery with a purpose: smart, timely, original and relevant to the policy debates that are actually on Washington’s agenda, or should be. We’ll plan to feature both outside contributors and original reporting in The Agenda…”

Now, compare those words to a “publication that will cover critical policy issues with the same high-impact, high-velocity style of journalism that has made POLITICO Washington’s ultimate must-read.” That would be the launch promise of Politico Pro, the premium subscription service that now looks likely to bicker over turf with “The Agenda.” Politico premiered Politico Pro in February 2011 to focus on energy, technology and health care reform, a menu of “verticals” that has expanded greatly in the intervening years.

In her memo, Glasser, who’s moving from editor of Politico Magazine to the newsroom’s No. 2 position, didn’t delineate the respective editorial spaces of “The Agenda” and Politico Pro, though one Politico insider tells the Erik Wemple Blog: “It sounds like the Agenda is to Politico Pro what the magazine is to regular Politico.” That comment requires context. Back in June 2013, Politico announced its plans for Glasser’s Politico Magazine, which included this promise: “Susan’s operation will not be a separate island. She wants and we expect her to be fully integrated within POLITICO.” Such a vision never took hold, as Glasser and the magazine’s editors worked primarily with the publication’s small staff and outside contributors. Glasser didn’t respond this morning to a request for an interview on such matters.

Staffing for the new project is unclear, though Glasser did announce its editor-at-large: Michael Grunwald, a national correspondent for Time magazine, former Washington Post reporter and author of books on the Everglades and President Obama’s stimulus program. Glasser called Grunwald a “stylist with the digging skills of an investigative reporter,” which is about right.

Big announcements are becoming routine at Politico, which is working on a European and U.S. expansion and this week announced the hiring of former Boston Globe editor Peter Canellos as the site’s executive editor. Given all the bureaucratic hives at Politico — “core” Politico, the magazine, “The Agenda” and Politico Pro — it’ll need as many executive editors and editors-at-large as it can dig up. The danger in the Balkanization of Politico is that with each new power center, it starts to resemble the mainstream outlets whose butts it kicked for years with a tight editorial focus.

Here’s Glasser’s memo on Grunwald and “The Agenda”:
I’m thrilled to announce that Michael Grunwald is joining POLITICO. Grunwald, a best-selling book author and award-winning senior national correspondent at TIME Magazine, will become a senior staff writer at POLITICO Magazine as well as editor-at-large of a new project we intend to launch early in 2015, The Agenda.
More on that in a minute, but first a word about Mike: He’s a unique talent in journalism, a policy wonk at heart who also happens to be great at writing about politics, a stylist with the digging skills of an investigative reporter. In his seven years at Time, he wrote cover stories on everything from the future of California to the future of the Republican Party, from the Person of the Year to the government-subsidized lives of ordinary Americans; he sidelined with a smart, agenda-setting column on energy and the environment. Mike was previously a staff writer for the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, where he was not only my colleague and reporter but my collaborator on an investigative series we co-wrote after Hurricane Katrina.
Mike’s journalism has been recognized with many of our industry’s highest honors, including the George Polk Award for national reporting and the Worth Bingham Prize for investigative reporting. He has written several books, too, including The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise and The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era, which was called the best book on the Obama administration by The Economist on the right and The Guardian on the left. He also collaborated most recently with former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on Stress Test, his account of the 2008/9 financial crisis and aftermath. Mike, a graduate of Harvard who lives in south Florida with his family, will start later this month.
A word on his project: In addition to writing the deeply reported magazine pieces on big subjects that are his trademark, Mike will be helping us conceive and launch The Agenda, a uniquely POLITICO take on the intersection of politics and policy to launch early in the new year. We’ve started already with an initial series of conversations around big policy debates under The Agenda label this fall (check out the great group of big brains and heavy hitters we assembled to ponder the future of Obamacare in our inaugural version a couple weeks back), and will be hiring an editor for this exciting new digital project to work alongside Mike and the magazine as we figure out what The Agenda will look like in its bigger, more ambitious form. One thing we can say for sure is that it will be wonkery with a purpose: smart, timely, original and relevant to the policy debates that are actually on Washington’s agenda, or should be. We’ll plan to feature both outside contributors and original reporting in The Agenda, and look forward to all your thoughts and ideas as the project begins to take shape.
Please join me in welcoming Mike in person at today’s all-staff meeting…
Susan
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