Earlier today, John Harris and Jim VandeHei held an online chat about, appropriately enough, The Politico. Some excerpts:
- 11:41 AM Eurobabbler, DC: First of all, congrats on what has been a very lively paper and overall successful launch. These are a bit of softballs. What are the things you’ve learned the most about journalism or about politics since coming on board? What has humbled you in starting up this ambitious venture?
John Harris: This goes beyond softball….indeed a question like this might arguably be illegal in some states…butt thanks for the opportunity to welcome readers to our first chat.
Let’s hope our new chat function is working bug-free for this debut….
The launch of The Politico and Politico.com haThs been gratifying. What Jim VandeHei and I believed–that there is huge interest in politics, and a terrific opportunity for a new publication to find an audience right from the start–has proven true. We are averaging some 600,000 unique visitors each week, and our reporters are often succeeding in writing stories that drive the daily political conversation in Washington and beyond.
But humbling is the right word–a start-up venture is very hard work, not just by us but by an incredibly diligent staff we have assembled. In my judgment, our site is off to a decent start, but we have lots more to do on both the news side and the technology side to reach our potential. The next several months are going to be an exciting time of growth and steady improvement for us.
11:53 AM Seattle, Washington: Which ‘audience’ are you trying to attract the most?
John Harris: I have been advised to avoid drug metaphors by our sales staff, but I do keep returning to a line I have used previously. Politico is a publication staffed by political junkies, and political junkies are our audience…both in Washington and around the country.
We hope that political junkies will come to see politico.com as a reliable needle in the vein for interesting news and analysis about the 2008 race, about Congress, and about the Washington lobbying and influence industry.
To emphasize: This is metaphor only…I do not condone actual drug use.
12:04 PM Stuart, FL: What is your ultimate goal, with Politico?
John Harris: My goal between now and 2008 is to establish the Politico brand–with both our print edition and the website–so that is widely known by a politically minded audience as an interesting and reliable place for news and analysis.
If we succeed in producing interesting content–and our debut has been strong–over the next two years, we’ll have built a publication with staying power to prosper over the long-term.
12:14 PM New York City: John- I have an idea for you, and it won’t cost you anything. Since President Bush’s approval rating is now 30%, and since 55% of Americans now want to defund the war and bring the troops home post haste, why don’t you drop the charade and actually hire and listen to a bona fide Democrat. You’re trolling in overfished waters at present.
John Haris: This obviously an ideologically framed question, which is fine with me. Politico has no ideological mission. Our reporters are free to write with a bit more voice than at some publications, but they are not free to use our pages for advocacy.
A liberal group, Media Matters, did criticize some of our coverage, which they thought was tilted in a way that helped Republicans. We happily published their critique, and a group of Politico reporters and editors and I tried to answer their points in an exchange of our own. Different staff members had a different reactions to the criticism. For my own part, I thought some of their criticism of specific stories was on target, even though there was no ideological motive behind some of the missteps. I thought their inference that we are somehow in league with Republicans.
My goal with the publication is to respond non-defensively to criticism, and to be transparent about how we do our work, which sometimes means pushing back aggressively and sometimes means acknowledging when critics have a point.
I’d hope you’d give us a look over the long haul and not make a lot of assumptions–false ones I assure you–about where we fit in some kind of ideological war.