Politico’s VandeHei Won’t Talk to Own Reporter

Politico received a series of lashings from several publications after Executive Editor Jim VandeHei and Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen ran a story criticizing perceived election news bias in WaPo and the NYT.

Dylan Byers, Politico‘s media reporter, wrote a post summarizing the whole thing. And it wasn’t vanilla. He laid out the criticisms, most of which were rather harsh against Politico, even writing about how Politico aggregated the work of the WaPo story VandeHei and Allen found to be biased.

“Allegations such as this led to a wave of criticism from outlets ranging from Talking Points Memo to GQ to the Washington Post’s media blog, as well as stern rebuttals from editors at both the Post and the Times.”

Byers requested comment from VandeHei, his boss, and Allen. Both declined (maybe they worried he’d twist their words?)… Byers analyzes: “[A]s far as I can tell, VandeHei and Allen aren’t arguing that the Times and the Post haven’t covered the stories that could prove harmful to Obama’s campaign. Rather, they are arguing that those newspapers have put greater emphasis on stories that may prove harmful to Romney’s campaign — which is certainly a point worth debating.”

FBDC reached out to Byers on reporting on the backlash Politico received. Ironically, he also opted not to comment, as did VandeHei.

To be sure, journalists covering their own publications is a tricky endeavor. It certainly is not the norm at Politico — typically you see Allen’s daily featuring of Politico reporters and stories in Playbook to a degree many find aggravating.

But every so often, as was the case with Byers, it seems worth the risk, although it isn’t clear how contrived it was. No doubt Politico editors had to have edited Byers’s copy before it ran.

WaPo‘s media blogger Erik Wemple went rogue in February when he wrote a scathing critique of an internal memo sent out by Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, calling the language in it “destructive.” At the time, Wemple explained that he sought out Brauchli for comment as he would anyone else: “He responded to my request for comment just the way you’d want  an executive editor to respond and he reacted to what I wrote just the way you’d want an executive editor to react. “

Michael Calderone, media reporter for HuffPost, formerly with Yahoo! News and Politico, told us when reporting on one’s own publication “you just have to tune out what higher-ups may or may not think and try to be fair.” And he said there’s another element to media reporting: Covering people who may end up being your bosses some day. “In reporting, I try to be straight with everyone in what I plan on writing and, while they may not like it at the time, hopefully they’ll at least think I was honest and thorough when covering them — whether they sign my paycheck now, previously, someday, or never.”

Calderone recently reported on the Pulitizer prize won by HuffPost and said it didn’t receive any extra editorial attention.