This story brought to you by Politico.comTue Jan 23, 2007 18:01
This story brought to you by Politico.com
Welcome to Politico
By: Jim VandeHei and John Harris
January 23, 2007 01:58 PM EST
We welcome readers to The Politico and politico.com. Thanks for giving us a look on our debut.
The Politico's goals are simple. Over the past several weeks, we set out to assemble the most talented and interesting collection of journalists -- established names as well as promising young people -- that we could find. Now, we will turn these reporters loose on the subject we love: national politics.
We will focus on three arenas. The first is Congress and the constant flow of agendas, personalities and power struggles that define daily life on Capitol Hill. The second is the 2008 presidential campaign, a race already churning and one likely to shape history in ways far beyond the typical election. The third is lobbying and advocacy, a part of the capital economy undergoing rapid growth and change. It is a business alive with interesting and influential characters whose impact is dimly understood and insufficiently covered.
We won't usually be chasing the story of the day. We'll put our emphasis on the "backstories" -- those that illuminate the personalities, relationships, clashes, ideas and political strategies playing out in the shadows of official Washington.
Reading a story should be just as interesting as talking with the reporter over a sandwich or a beer. It's a curiosity of journalism that this often isn't true. The traditional newspaper story is written with austere, voice-of-God detachment. These newspaper conventions tend to muffle personality, humor, accumulated insight -- all the things readers hunger for as they try to make sense of the news and understand what politicians are really like. Whenever we can, we'll push against these limits. In the process, we'll share with readers a lot more of what we know instead of leaving it in our notebooks.
At politico.com, you'll find this kind of reporting and analysis in our blogs. Our presidential blogs will be written by Ben Smith, following the Democrats, and Jonathan Martin, focusing on Republicans. For the latest maneuverings on Capitol Hill, we'll have "The Crypt," written by reporters John Bresnahan and Patrick O'Connor. For the latest in Washington gossip, no one will prove better connected than Anne Schroeder, author of the "Shenanigans" blog. Anchoring our presidential coverage in both the paper and the Web site will be political columnist Roger Simon and chief political reporter Mike Allen -- both among Washington's most visible and experienced journalists.
We are launching this publication with a belief that January 2007 is an auspicious moment for a new publication -- and for thinking anew about the intersection of politics and journalism.
It is an odd moment, to be sure, in the larger context of our profession. Layoffs are the norm at many news organizations. Buyouts and involuntary reassignments, accompanied by vague and ominous all-newsroom memos about more wrenching changes ahead, are the fashion at others. To be optimistic about the future in this climate of gloom is an act of will.
But it's not an irrational act. We believe that this moment of anxiety and upheaval in our business is also one of creative possibility. The publications best positioned to take advantage of this potential are no longer the general audience, mass-market news organizations that dominated the previous generations. The future, we are betting, belongs to those who organize themselves around specialized coverage and speak in fresh and revelatory ways to a specialized audience. Robert Allbritton, our publisher, has made this bet his own, and he plans to support our approach for the long haul.
For now, then, Politico's job is to win an audience.
Part of that audience is here in Washington. It includes the lawmakers, lobbyists and strategists on Capitol Hill whose daily business encompasses the subjects we'll cover. Many of them will read us in print as The Politico, a newspaper with a circulation of 25,000 copies distributed on the Hill and elsewhere in Washington. But there is a vastly larger audience outside the capital that cares equally about great, incisive political stories. They'll read us at politico.com.
There is a handful of ideas animating Politico journalism. None of them alone is revolutionary. Cumulatively, we think they are distinctive -- enough so to answer those who wonder how we'll distinguish ourselves in a world already glutted with news and commentary.
Chief among these ideas is that we live in an entrepreneurial age, not an institutional one. Until recently, most reporters derived their impact -- and often their sense of professional esteem -- from the prestige and gravity of the organizations they worked for. The Web, among other forces, has demolished much of the comparative advantage that big newspapers and networks once enjoyed. Today, many of the reporters having the most impact are those who whose work carries a unique signature, who add a distinct voice to the public conversation. Their work, in other words, matters more than where they work.
Reporters stand out from the crowd in a number of ways. Some regularly break news before their competitors. Some have a gift for interpretation, for connecting the dots in illuminating ways. Still others stand out through their eloquence and original storytelling.
Politico will promote and celebrate journalists who have a unique signature. That's why we've been able to attract reporters and editors who have worked at such places as Time magazine and The New York Times, National Public Radio, Roll Call and The Hill, Bloomberg News Service, the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today and The Washington Post.
There is a difference, however, between voice and advocacy. That's one traditional journalism ideal we fully embrace. There is more need than ever for reporting that presents the news fairly, not through an ideological prism. One of the most distressing features of public life recently has been the demise of shared facts. Warring partisans -- many of whom take their news from sources that cater to and amplify their existing opinions -- live in separate zones of reality. In such a climate, every news story is viewed as either weapon or shield in a nonstop ideological war. Our answer to this will be journalism that insists on the primacy of facts over ideology. Our belief in this is one reason The Politico will not have a traditional editorial page. Only rarely will we write as "We."
Our readers' opinions matter more than our own. One feature bridging The Politico and politico.com is called "Speak to Power." Anyone who wants to post a commentary online on our opinion section can do so. The best pieces -- as judged by the vote of readers -- will also be published in the print edition, where they will be seen by lawmakers, staff and others with influence in Washington.
Another feature on the site will be the daily "Talker." If a piece is a talker, the reporter will read and respond to comments and complaints throughout the day. These features reflect one of our goals: We want to not simply present the news but also to give readers ways to interact with our journalism and shape its direction. Politico.com at the moment is a pretty standard site, still in its initial design. But its evolution will be an immediate and nonstop process. As we add features, we'll look for ways to make politico.com not just a source of content but a community where people who care about politics come to talk about the news.
Two years from now, the 44th president will be inaugurated. We'll follow the drama between now and then -- and beyond -- every step of the way. We'll be learning a lot and having fun, and we invite you to join us for the journey. Here we go.
John F. Harris, editor in chief
Jim VandeHei, executive editor
Jan. 23, 2007
TM & © THE POLITICO & POLITICO.COM, a division of Allbritton Communications Company
Roger Simon is the Chief Political Columnist for Politico, an award-winning journalist and a New York Times best-selling author. Click here to read what Simon Says.
Mike Allen is Chief Political Correspondent for Politico. His column, Mike Allen Reports, covers the White House and Politics '08.
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