The New Republic‘s Gabriel Sherman has a lovely new story out about the dystopian hell chamber that is the Politico newsroom. The snarling, leprous leadership of Jim VandeHei and John Harris (a.k.a. “VandeHarris,” or simply, “AnusHair”) greets its intrepid blog reporters each morning at 5:30 a.m. with a hot shower of molten lava, followed by a threat to feed them to the rabid, one-eyed Beast of Ancient Times (held in an office storage pod in Manassas) if they do not get a Drudge link by 11 a.m. “SMITH, BEN SSSMITHHHH,” the death demon VandeHarris roars, spittle flying from its mouth, before slithering back to its dungeon for a breakfast of live rats, copper shavings, and ostrich blood. “YOU MUST WIN THE MORNING… A GUEST SLOT ON HARDBALL COMPELS YOU…”
Sherman notes that Politico‘s top writers — the brand names, such as Jonathan “Flowers” Martin and Roger “Dodger” Simon — are rumored to make between $150,000 and $250,000 in salary, which is just a ludicrous amount of money to be making with a “print-web hybrid” at a time when print and web news formats are working together to destroy the profit incentive of every form of news delivery.
Here’s what they’re paid so well to do:
Reporting, though, is only part of the equation: The motto around the Politico newsroom is to “win the morning, win the afternoon” — by which editors mean that Politico’s stories need to be the most talked-about and cited in that day’s news cycle. One measure of winning is getting stories linked on sites like Drudge Report and The Huffington Post, which leads to appearances on the cable shows. Politico employs three publicists who routinely send out links to bloggers and producers.
As New York Times executive editor Bill Keller points out later in the article, however, the drawback to this circus of meaningless scooplets is that no one can remember a single fucking thing Politico ever wrote. Then again, Politico may turn a profit in six months, at which time the NYT may not exist.
Ugh. And imagine having to work with Mike Allen everyday! His “Playbook” is like the 4chan of political reporting, written for an exhausted Washington press corps that — if it stopped working on the latest nonsense for a few hours — would come to realize how much it hates itself.
At the meeting, staffers received a memo written by Allen explaining Politico’s journalism philosophy. “We are not the AP or The New York Times. … If we ONLY do what those two great organizations do, WE WILL NOT SURVIVE AND WE WON’T HAVE JOBS,” the memo read, according to a copy provided to The New Republic. “THE REWARD for cracking this code,” the memo concluded, “is that you’re part of an enterprise … that is one of a tiny handful of news organizations in the WORLD that is actually GROWING.”
“Playbook” should go even further in the direction of, “MIKE ALLEN’S ALL-CAPS THOUGHTS ABOUT STUFF.” Things like, “WE NEED TO BECOME THE FIRST NEWS ORGANIZATION THAT IS ALSO A POLITICAL INTERNET MEME.”
The Scoop Factory [TNR]Related