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Politico Puts Politics Editor in Cockpit

“In a rational world, it seems obvious…”

This is the promising start to an early morning memo from Politico‘s Editor-in-Chief John Harris to staff. Makes you wonder where he’s going with it. Our minds raced. 1. Mike Allen will attend Arianna Huffington‘s sleep away summer camp for insomniacs. 2. There will be an uprising during the next Politico live show in which Ginger Gibson, Juana Summers and Reid Epstein will all say f&@k on air. Or 3. National Politics Editor Charlie Mahtesian will soon begin writing a new blog called “Charlie Mahtesian on the American Political Landscape.”

Ding. Ding. Ding. If you guessed number three you’re onto something. Mahtesian will be relieved of some of his grueling line-editing duties to write the new blog but will remain Politics Editor. Harris says if anyone deserves more time in the cockpit and less in the control tower, it’s Mahtesian. On another important note, Dave Catanese will be taking “a breather” from his blogging responsibilities. Harris says news from his blog can just as easily be presented through quick news stories. What’s more, he says Catanese “excels on the road.”

See the internal memo…It’s all carefully worded to mitigate any possible bad feelings.

From: John Harris
Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:53 AM
To: Staff
Subject: Breaking news on the politics team

In a rational world, it seems obvious, the person on our staff who has more and better ideas about politics than anyone in the business would have a platform to share those ideas with readers in real time.

Alas, life isn’t perfectly rational–but we are about to make a change that will make it more so.

Starting next Monday, National Politics Editor Charlie Mahtesian–whose byline previously appeared on sporadic but highly rewarding occasions–will be writing frequently on a blog of his own. Charlie will put an emphasis on ideas and trends shaping politics at the state, congressional, and presidential levels.

Charlie will remain politics editor and the leader of our politics coverage across all fronts on big questions: How we set the agenda, how we see over the horizon, how we maintain standards amid the nonstop churn of the spin cycle when it can be easy, without a vigilant eye, to let frivolous or misleading or even plain wrong stories creep into coverage.

In exchange for taking on the blog, he will be liberated from some of the constant line-editing of stories that has been his task over the past four years. He’ll still do some of this–when we really need his sure instincts–but much of the hour-to-hour direction of the politics coverage will be executed by Rachel Van Dongen.

The new blog will go a long way toward ending a chronic frustration–all the smart thoughts that all of us who work beside Charlie get to hear often that never reach a wider audience. That’s why we lobbied hard to get him to take on this new feature.

The blog will nicely complement the addictive 2012 blog that Maggie Haberman and Alex Burns have been steering this cycle.

At the same time, we are going to give David Catanese a deserved  breather from his blogging responsibilities. Our thinking is that much of the breaking news that is most valuable in his blog on congressional elections can be just as effectively presented through quick news stories. That frees David–who excels on the road–to have more impact,  and it provides him the freedom to focus on and travel to the most important races in the nation.

If anyone has earned the right to spend more time in the cockpit and a little less in the control tower it is Charlie. POLITICO’s stellar reputation on politics is due to many factors but most of all due to Charlie’s awesome intellect and inexhaustible work ethic.

This change is made possible because of the swift and graceful transition that Rachel has made to POLITICO. She’s clearly one of us in the way she thinks and the way she edits.

We’ll also see Bill Nichols playing a large role in this coverage, and leading the coordination that needs to take place during election season among three desks–politics, White House, and Congress.

It is going to be fun for all of us to watch Charlie make use of this new canvass to paint on, and very satisfying for readers to have unfiltered access to his original thinking.

John and Jim

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