It happens every four years and 2012 is one of those years. It’s a year presidential campaigning and Politico (www.Politico.com), one of the most popular sites on the web--five million individual readers monthly--may likely see a spike in traffic.
Politico is to presidential politics what Sports Illustrated is to athletics.
Unlike many web sites that specialize in republishing and aggregating information from other sites, Politico operates like an old-fashioned newspaper. It has a large staff and its reporters cover presidential campaigns, legislative issues, and everything you wanted to know about Washington and state politics. For the record, it also republishes articles from various leading newspapers, magazines and web sites but focuses on original reporting.
Politico is organized into categories, namely 2012 Live, 44 (on Obama’s Presidency), Congress, Arena (which encourages debate, like entering the political arena), Opinion, Policy, Video, Photos, and Bookshelf. Beyond presidential politics, it covers a wide range of topics including John Edwards’ case about using campaign funds illegally, Elizabeth Warren’s controversies, and effect of the tea party on the upcoming election.
On the day that President Obama announced that he was in favor of gay marriage, Politico was there to assess how that ground-breaking decision would affect the presidential campaign. It focused on some of the most competitive states, such as Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, and broke down how that strategy would affect his presidential chances.
In May 2012, reporter Alexander Burns analyzed a TV campaign financed by President Obama, belittling Mitt Romney’s claims that he created 100,000 jobs at Bain Capital. The ad focused on Bain’s acquiring GST Steel, making millions of dollars on the acquisition, and then shutting the plant down and putting hundreds of workers out of work. The article was balanced and also presented the alternative viewpoint of how private equity expands business and its benefits.
The Arena section, where a Politico moderator asks a topical question, invites readers to interact with each other. One recent query asked whether Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin had made a political blunder by agreeing to a recall as a mandate about him. If he loses the recall, it would oust him from the governorship.
On the day that Arena question was published, 350 readers responded to it. Responders included influential policy experts such as Roger Pilon, vice president for Legal Affairs at the Cato Institute, former Democratic Congressman Martin Frost, and Chris DeRose, a Republican strategist. Reading Politico is like eavesdropping on a high level conference call among leading political thinkers from many political leanings.
That’s another thing that makes Politico special: Most web sites lean either liberal or conservative, while Politico plays it down the middle and manages to attract strategic thinkers from different allegiances.
Creating a dialogue between reporter and reader is one of Politico’s specialties. Most newspapers and magazines don’t print the email address of its journalists, who likely don’t want to be deluged by correspondence and hundreds of emails. But Politico revels in reader response, and every reporter’s email address is displayed in the About Us section.
Proving Politico’s balance was another article that criticized the Obama administration’s inaction on holding bankers responsible for the subprime mortgage and other financial misdeeds. On the day after J.P Morgan Chase announced that it lost over $2 billion from a London-based derivatives trader, Politico’s lead story, “Obama’s Wall Street Problem,” written by Ben White, raised questions about how the Obama administration handled bankers circumventing regulations. White wrote, “Four years after the financial crisis nearly brought the nation to its knees, very little appears to have changed.” The article noted that no influential bank executive had been jailed and federal task forces have achieved minimal progress.
Its chief political correspondent Roger Simon embodies the professional journalist who has made the transition to the Internet. Simon served as White House correspondent at the Chicago Sun-Time and Baltimore Sun. He’s thorough, incisive, and calls issues the way he sees them. For example, Simon noted that most pundits say the election will be determined by the economy. “See how much time and space is actually devoted to a serious discussion of the economy,” he noted.
Politico also publishes a variety of blogs, again from different political persuasions. Its bloggers include popular conservative talk show host Joe Scarborough, Josh Gerstein, Politico’s White House reporter and former New Republic and ABC News reporter, and Charlie Mathesian, who covers Congress for Politico.
Politico’s reporting is close to instantaneous. When President Obama presented the commencement speech at Barnard College in mid-May, the Politico news update summarizing the presentation appeared within an hour after its conclusion. No one has to wait for the next day’s edition when reading Politico.
Besides politics, it covers an array of other areas. It has a daily tip sheet that covers Morning Defense, Morning Transportation, and Morning Money, highlighting the latest news in these areas. Its policy pages cover health care, the environment, and transportation.
Politico offers the inside track on the presidential race, tracks a variety of hot-button issues, and keeps readers updated on who’s gaining momentum and who’s faltering.
Gary M. Stern is a freelance writer based in New York City.