Who is National Journal‘s biggest competitor?
“Myself,” replied Editor-in-Chief Ron Fournier this afternoon to a question posed within a small gaggle of media reporters convened in the Watergate office’s Shenandoah boardroom. “The only thing I worry about is if I’m up for the job. We really don’t see any one publication as a competitor.” He remarked that his “friend,” Politico‘s Editor-in-Chief John Harris, is building his own niche as are his “friends” at Bloomberg. But soon, Fournier blatantly employed Politico‘s own catch phrase: “I want to win the morning, every evening, and the year. We’re going to out-think everyone. But why can’t you have fun doing it? Why does it have to be a nasty fight?”
Competition. What competition? “No one is doing what we’re doing, or doing it better, insisted Fournier. “…We’ve found ourselves a distinctive spot.” By the end of the week, he added, “We’ll have you equipped for the dinner party.”
National Journal stayed up into the wee hours of Sunday morning putting the final touches on the launch of its new web site this morning, with some employees pulling an all nighter to get the job done. No matter that he stayed up late, he says. Fournier will take Friday off to spend time with family. The afternoon gaggle included Yahoo! News’s Michael Calderone, Mediaite‘s D.C. part-timer Nisha Chittal, and New York Observer‘s Nick Summers, who recently left Newsweek for his new job writing a weekly 1,000-word media column. The PR team, which includes The Atlantic‘s V.P. of Corporate and Strategic Communications Linda Douglass and Taylor West was present, but mostly stayed mum.
Upon shaking hands with Calderone, Fournier said, “Michael hasn’t always done what I wanted him to, but he’s always fair and thorough.” Calderone smiled in response.
During the overview, Fournier spoke thoughtfully and in a medium-volume voice. “We seek to break news,” he said. “We don’t cede anything to anyone.” He said the newsroom will be supportive, not backbiting. Reporters will work hard and have traditional individual beats over which they will hold expertise. “We really think there is a market for serious journalism. Let the others race to the bottom. And son of a gun, there are people paying a lot of money for it in this town.”
Fournier management style appears easygoing but dogged. He said he wants his reporters working harder than they’ve ever worked, but wants them happy doing it. “‘Let’s work our butts off,’” he said he told his team today. “I worked for bosses at the AP who made me work hard not because they scared the crap out of me, but because they made me feel like I was a part of something bigger.”
When reporters do well, he plans to highlight it. And when they don’t? He plans to pull them aside and say, “That’s just not how we do things here.”
> Update: Read Yahoo! News’s Calderone’s take on today’s meeting as well as Chittal’s story.