Ex-Politico scribe Steve Friess’s BuzzFeed freelance debut has some Politico reporters bristling in response. Damn that BuzzFeed is stirring up so much trouble as of late.
Friess, who just finished up at Politico last week as a tech reporter, wrote a counter piece to NYT columnist Ross Douthat, who declared that in order for WaPo to succeed Politico has to fail. Friess took issue, saying there is a place for Politico‘s niche reporting and WaPo must find its own way, irregardless of Politico‘s success. His point: WaPo can’t be Politico and shouldn’t try as they’re meant to serve a broader audience. He wrote, “The Post’s mission and mandate is to serve an entire and diverse community; Politico’s is to serve a homogenous and specialized one.”
The line that offended reporters such as Politico‘s Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel? “Ross Douthat of The New York Times kicked this parlor game into high gear on Sunday by declaring the Post’s fatal sin as an alleged failure to fully embrace the internet and deploy the sort of kinetic, report-every-bowel-movement coverage of official Washington that has turned Politico into a juggernaut,” wrote Friess. He also wrote that Politico wasn’t profitable until a few years ago when they launched Politico Pro, calling other parts of the publication the “dessert” that created the brand while Politico Pro is the vegetables that feed their bottom line. He also revealed other vanilla details about Politico newsroom parlance, but nothing all that harsh.
Still, after getting flack about his story, Friess took to Twitter: “Amused that ex-colleagues see @BuzzFeed piece as insult. It’s in no way critical of @politico.” Haberman retweeted that with, “Seriously??” Vogel also retweeted, adding, “report-every-bowel-movment.”
VOGEL: “Comparing our journalism to covering ‘bowel movements’ isn’t criticism? Fine to criticize, of course, but own it when you do.”
FRIESS: “Ask any journalist in Las Vegas who followed my blog if I’m shy about owning my own criticism. There’s none in that piece. …That’s colorful writing, not criticism. I’m repeatedly admiring & complimentary of @politico. It’s just different than a newspapr. … Believe me. When I do, I will. But obsessing on a phrase at the expense of an entire piece is… well… very Politico of you.”
VOGEL: “Which is not criticism either, right?”
FRIESS: “Naw. That’s just trolling. You need to brush up on your lingo.”
VOGEL: “Thanks for your advice and insight.”
Indeed there were compliments for his old employer in his piece. For instance, “Politico is a niche publication that does a terrific job focusing on a topic of great and growing interest. But it does not pretend to want to cover all of the myriad and important topics that a general-service newspaper does, nor should it.”
Friess directly disputes Douthat’s premise that WaPo wins if Politico loses, writing, “But we already have a Politico, and it’s a good thing. If the Post becomes Politico, we all lose.”
Asked for comment on the matter, Friess told FishbowlDC…“I have the deepest respect for Politico and understand fully the niche it fills. Anyone who missed the repeated points in the Buzzfeed piece at which I say precisely that is encouraged to try reading the entire story, not just the headline or the first few paragraphs,” said Friess. “People in the media business, in particular, need to keep things in context and perspective — that’s our jobs, after all. Obviously I didn’t want to work there full-time anymore, so I left. But just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean I don’t understand or appreciate its many virtues and contributions.”