TNR has posted an internal Politico memo "revealing the organization's formula for 'must-read' coverage." Reading through CAPS-laden passages like these, I couldn't help imagining them read by Alec Baldwin's character in Glengarry Glen Ross:
"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."
"Speed kills. Velocity - SPEED + POWER (good sources, smart thinking) - will make you a winner."
Coffee is for closers. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired. Always be closing.
And like Mamet's salesmen trying to talk their marks into investing in swampland, it seems the Politico is little more than a con. See, the Politico memo has a lot of instructions for reporters, including a list of questions Politico employees should ask themselves about prospective stories. Things like "Would this be a 'most-emailed' story?" and "Will a blogger be inspired to post on this story?" But it omits any mention of striving to ensure accuracy or quality. No questions like "Do I have the story right?" or "Am I being spun by my sources?" or "Is this story important?" (And certainly no "Does it really matter how much someone paid for a haircut?")
Maybe those questions aren't included because they aren't relevent to Politico's extraordinary mission statement, presented at the top of the memo:
THE MISSION: Politico journalism drives conversation in official Washington, making us ESSENTIAL READING for anyone who is or wants to be a player, and a KEY OUTLET for anyone who is trying to shape a political or government debate.
That's it. That's the whole mission. Nothing about informing people, or finding the truth. Instead, Politico sees its mission as being a "key outlet" for the "players" trying to shape political debates. With that as the Politico's mission, it seems unlikely they even care whether they're being spun, or getting the story right.
The memo concludes by claiming Politico is "one of the greatest adventures in journalistic history." Yeah, stories about John Edwards' haircuts are right up there with Watergate and the Pentagon Papers. Right.
Like Ricky Roma and Shelley Levene, Politico doesn't have much of value to offer. But they think they can talk you into buying it anyway.