In February, Politico Editor Susan Glasser announced a bold dive into difficult Washington terrain:
It’s been a while, but Washington is about to get a great gossip column. Kate Glassman Bennett, a fourth-generation Washingtonian who cut her teeth on gossip in the competitive world of Las Vegas before returning home to DC, will soon launch The KGB File for us at POLITICO. Kate promises a column very much in the spirit of the legendary late Diana McClellan, whose Ear in the Washington Star was the original must read in a company town where the backstage happenings of its congresspeople and Cabinet officers, columnists and chefs have always helped chart the ebbs and flow of power. Kate is a former gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and editor in chief of Vegas Magazine (not to mention classics graduate of St. John’s College); most recently here in DC she has edited Capitol File magazine, Washingtonian Bride & Groom and Washingtonian Mom. For Politico, she promises a great read multiple times a week: “fun, coy, insightful, a tad biting — and smart.”
The KGB File launched in early April. Though any column would have struggled to meet the memo hype, Bennett’s columns were tightly written, highly reported and extremely readable, spanning real estate, the embassy scene, Donald Trump, plus a little stumble on the new White House social secretary front. Despite Glasser’s promise of a multiple-times-per-week column, it launched as a weekly vehicle — a really odd cadence for any reported fare in the year 2015.
And then it stopped. The last column under the “KGB File” branding is dated Aug. 6.
What happened? Is the column another casualty of the Washington gossip beat? Is it on a late-summer hiatus? An inquiry to Glasser has gone unanswered.
Truncation of the “KGB File” raises the possibility that gossip-covering history is already repeating itself at the eight-year-old publication. Remember “Click”? That was the site’s original effort at competing on lighter stuff. Here’s the initiative’s last gasp: “As 2013 comes to an end, so, too, does the CLICK blog. In 2014, you will find POLITICO’s coverage of the intersection of politics and entertainment on the website’s home page.”
Among the challenges facing today’s gossip reporters is the Web’s publish-everything imperative. No longer do beat reporters covering politics, diplomacy and national security leave juicy trimmings for their resident gossip columnist; they write them up for themselves. This dynamic is particularly acute at Politico, where Mike Allen’s morning “Playbook” frequently delivers gossipy exclusives. Another problem is that nuts-and-bolts, small-bore Washington gossip coverage — embassy parties, wonks with quirky obsessions and the like — doesn’t drive much of a Web audience, at least nothing like bona fide national celebrity coverage.
Last week surfaced evidence that Bennett hadn’t abandoned her topic area, as she published a widely shared story on the extraordinary measures taken by the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown — red carpets and all kinds of gold stuff — to prepare for the visit of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.