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New ‘Playbook’ co-author: ‘There’s no one else in the space’

Politico reporters Jake Sherman, left, and Anna Palmer. (M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico via AP)

In addition to a fast publishing cadence, Politico has brought a measure of bravado to Beltway journalism. “I think we’ll show that we’re better than The New York Times or The Washington Post,” former Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei said just before the publication’s 2007 launch.

VandeHei is no longer promoting workaholism in the publications Rosslyn corridors, having recently departed the publication, though his spirit survives. The Politico newsroom is “poised to dominate this next chapter in American politics,” said Carrie Budoff Brown in a conference call Monday. Brown was announced as the successor to current Editor Susan Glasser, who will depart the position after the November elections and then slide into a position as chief foreign affairs columnist; her husband, the New York Times’s Peter Baker, is taking over as the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief, and Glasser will be joining him there.

Precisely how Brown will redirect Politico’s resources isn’t quite clear just yet. Asked yesterday where she sees holes left by competitors in the Washington media scene, Brown said that Politico will be at its best in covering the actions of the next president of the United States. Having served as editor of Politico Europe, Brown says that the organization — which has also expanded with coverage of state capitals — including Florida, New Jersey and New York — is sourced up to cover governance like no other publication. “We are uniquely set up to cover that story and exploit all our resources to cover that story,” said Brown.

And there may be more of those resources. Yesterday’s conference call referenced plans to expand the Politico franchise. Joe Pompeo, a reporter for Politico Media based in New York, pushed Robert Allbritton, Politico founder and publisher, on just what those plans might entail. “I mean, we’re looking all over the place right now, Joe. We’re talking about what we’re doing both domestically and overseas. I don’t have anything to announce right now, but we’ve spent a lot of time meeting with partners” and discussing “business models,” said Allbritton, rounding out one of the most unconvincing statements on future possible expansion in recent local media history. To the cliche that “if you’re not growing, you’re dying,” Allbritton is adding a corollary: “If you’re not talking vaguely about growing, you’re dying.”

Ribbing aside, Politico, under current editor Glasser, had made some lasting contributions to campaign 2016. Behind reporters like Annie Karni, Ken Vogel, Ben Schreckinger and Hadas Gold, the site has broken considerable stories about the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the media swirling around them. Veteran political reporter Glenn Thrush has broken news via podcasts. So yeah, anyone using forms of the verb “to implode” in describing the January exit of top managers from Politico was overplaying his or her hand.

Nor is there a concern that chest-beating has departed the organization. In their first day as co-writers of “Playbook,” Politiquites Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer appeared on “Morning Joe” to discuss how they’d be treating the morning newsletter that colleague Mike Allen had turned into a Washington standby. “The good thing is there’s no one else in the space…because Mike has been so indispensable and a juggernaut. Nobody else has tried to get in the space so we’re lucky in that sense and it’s no pressure. All we have to do is keep it up for the next 3,000 editions.”

Unless you count politics newsletters like the one from the New York Times, the Huffington Post, ABC News, Sidewire, NBC News, the Washington Post, Sherman is on firm ground asserting that this niche is 100 percent Politico property. After listening to his boast, the Erik Wemple Blog checked with James Hohmann, a former Politico reporter who now writes the Washington Post’s politics newsletter, the Daily 202. Hohmann provided this response: “There is actually more noise and more competition in the newsletter space than ever before, coming at a higher volume and quicker pace. What readers yearn for is the signal in that noise – the insight that lets decision makers understand what just happened, why it matters and what to expect tomorrow. This is why The Daily 202 has been such a huge success over the past 13 months and why we have more daily readers than Playbook and all of our other competitors.”

Asked whether he really meant what he said, Sherman told the Erik Wemple Blog via email, “All I meant was the Playbook community is unique in size and scope. And has always had an intimacy that’s made it different than others.” We won’t dispute that particular assessment, though it’s only fair to add that “Playbook” has been unique in its willingness to overstep important journalistic boundaries, a legacy that we hopethe Sherman-Palmer-Daniel Lippman team will leave behind.

(Disclosure: The Erik Wemple Blog formerly worked as editor of TBD.com, a now-defunct local website under the Allbritton Communications Co. roof)

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