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Politico vs. NYTimes: John Harris and Bill Keller Duke it Out

It all started with a Gabe Sherman piece in the New Republic this week about the spectacular rise of Politico at the time when print journalism was seeminly suffering everywhere else.

It was there that NYTimes’ Bill Keller had this to say, “If you hadn’t reminded me, I couldn’t have told you who broke the seven houses and the six-figure wardrobe budget… Politico has focused on an inside game. I’m not sure if it translates to an outside game. I’m not sure how they get scale, and, if they don’t, I’m not sure what the business model is.”

To which, Politico’s John Harris responded, “Bill seems to be suggesting that only mass audience, general interest news sites- those that replicate as closely as possible the mission and content of traditional daily print papers— can survive. My own view is that the falling profits and staff cuts at papers across the country highlight the perils of this approach.”

And the coverage ensues…

Greg Sargent’s take is that there are actually two Politicos- one taking web-based journalism to a new level, and one that “consciously strives to break the kind of catty gossip that will reverberate inside the cable bubble…”

The Weekly Standard asks as a follow-up
, “Which newspaper’s business model consists of handouts from a shady Mexican oligarch, a tapped-out credit line, and a new mortgage on their office space. Hint: It’s not Politico.”

NYMag says, “Politico is Not the AP or the New York Times.”

Now TNR has the internal memo “What is a Politico Story?” referenced in Sherman’s piece up in its entirety. It’s a 3-page document that outlines Politico’s formula, mission and secrets to success. The memo is worth a full read, we’ve included just a excerpts below:

We are not the AP or The New York Times. They are wonderful at what they do and we will not supplant them in their space. If we ONLY do what those two great organizations do, WE WILL NOT SURVIVE AND WE WON’T HAVE JOBS.

A Politico story pulls back the curtain and shows the reader something intriguing, surprising and important BEHIND the straight-news headline or data point.

Speed kills. Velocity- SPEED + POWER (good sources, smart thinking)- will make you a winner.

This back-and-forth makes for great blog material, but it begs the question, just who is TNR’s whistle blower?

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