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Kurtz Talks ‘Junkie Journalism’ With VandeHarris

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WaPo’s and CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Howard Kurtz sat down with Politico co-founders John Harris and Jim VandeHei on Sunday to discuss what he referred to as “Junkie journalism. Politico’s top editors on their bubbly brew of reporting tastes great, but is it less filling?”

VandeHei addressed the junkie metaphor by referring to 2012 presidential insider reporting as “crack” for their political junkie audience.

Nicknamed VandeHarris, the editors discussed the often used phrase, “Winning the Morning” – most people (particularly TV networks) get news between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., VandeHei explained.

Harris said times have changed since he was at WaPo.
“…We use the phrase a little bit lightheartedly, but it’s got a serious meaning behind it, because Politico is a 24/7 operation Web operation,” he said. “We’re attuned to the different and changing rhythms by which the audience gets news. And we think it’s really important to be putting a lot of our best content out in the morning and to be driving the news story in the morning. That’s a different rhythm than the one I grew up with at The Washington Post, where the most, sort of intense reporting activities were in the late afternoon, early evening, as we approached deadline for the next day’s paper.”

Kurtz questioned the editors on a topic that has, at times, challenged Politico’s reputation: speed, depth and accuracy. “Is the need for speed sometimes at odds with the depth of reporting,the substance? I mean, we live in an age where you kind of throw up what you have.” Kurtz remarked.

VandeHei replied, “…To be a first-class news organization, you have to do both. One of the problems with conventional journalism, at last the way I practiced it for most of my career, is the truth is people weren’t reading our stories. We might write a thousand words, but people were only reading for about 200 words of information. And often, 250, 500 words will suffice.”

Though working there can be too intense for some, Politico staff is allowed to vacation.

Kurtz asked, “You are in favor of people going on vacation?”
Harris said blogger Ben Smith gets a “great substitute writer” when he leaves the blogosphere, and added, “I’m all in favor of people going on vacation and getting their batteries recharged.”

But Harris stressed, “… Everybody here is acutely conscious of we can’t let the conversation die.”

Watch the CNN clip here.

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