If there were any doubt as to whether the stuff reported about the culture in Politico‘s newsroom were true, look no further than Karin Tanabe’s to-be-released novel, The List.
The plot centers on a 20-something reporter who leaves a “cushy” New York magazine job for D.C.’s “hottest (and most cut-throat) political rag.” It’s well known that the fictional “political rag” is inspired by Politico, where Tanabe used to work as a “Click” gossip reporter.
FishbowlDC received an advance copy of The List, which publishes next month. Even in the first two chapters, we found relatively unflattering stories about Politico‘s newsroom. Nothing we haven’t read before, but negative, nonetheless.
Take the protagonist, Adrienne Brown, who on her first day as a style reporter at the Capitolist (a.k.a. Politico fictionalized) is treated to “awkward cake.” Last summer HuffPost‘s Michael Calderone reported about this real-life thing inside Politico, indeed referred to by staffers as “awkward cake.” In other words, the dessert presented to the newsroom to bid farewell to a staffer. (By the way, this happens in a number newsrooms around town, on birthdays as well as farewell gatherings. It’s always awkward cake.)
Another character in the book, David Bush, is clearly Mike Allen. He’s described as “a man with a safari hat stuck to his sweaty head” and “round tortoiseshell glasses.” He only removes the hat for TV appearances, which sounds more like White House scribe Glenn Thrush, until Bush is further described as “quirky” and “a genius.” His job: To write the Morning List (“It’s like the Bible, but with bullet points.”) Of course, the NYT profile of Politico in 2010 referred to Allen as “the man the White House wakes up to” and described him as “obsessively private” and “a legendary hoarder and pack rat.”
On and on it goes, making Politico sound like a wretched place to work. But there are stark differences between Tanabe, the real woman who worked for Politico, and her book’s main character, Adrienne Brown. Tanabe, who is brunette, not blonde as shown above, never previously worked for a New York magazine; rather, she was managing editor for Washington Life. She also wrote an edgy blog called NakedThanks.com, in which she sarcastically thanked people or places, such as the back seat of her boyfriend’s car.
The graph that best sums up
Politico, the fake publication…
“And that, I realized, was what the Capitolist was all about: not sleeping, working around the clock, and fighting so that [the editors] not only knew who you were but also cared enough about you to occasionally put your stories on the front page, maybe even to shoot the shit with you every couple of weeks. That meant coming by your desk and asking about your life. The right answer to that question was always, ‘What do you mean? This is my life.'”
It’s beginning to look like a no-brainer why Tanabe packed up her Washington life last year and jetted off to Dubai; she probably didn’t want Jim VandeHei to find her and kill her once the book came out.
We reached out to VandeHei for comment.