April 28, 2010

NY Times vs. Politico

By: AFF Editors

The current issue of the NY Times Magazine features a condescending cover story about Mike Allen and his colleagues from Politico. I’m guessing that Allen & Co. will like the story, since it can’t stop talking about how influential they are. But the story dismisses their success in the same way that the Times often dismisses the success of the blogosphere — it caters to kneejerk partisans with short attention spans who aren’t really interested in thinking about the issues.

It would’ve been nice if the Times Mag took a step back from its self-pity to ask whether Politico’s success may serve as a model for those who want to save print journalism. Think about it — at a time when big newspapers are losing money and subscribers left and right, Politico has become a success by combining a print edition with a strong presence on the web. Regrettably, the Times Mag story doesn’t look at Politico’s finances. If it’s losing money, too, there may not be much to learn. But if it making a profit or headed in that direction, that is a big story.

Instead, the Times Mag focuses in great detail on the personal idiosyncrasies of Mr. Allen, himself a former stringer for the Times. Did you know Mike Allen used to have an extremely messy desk? Did you know he apparently sleeps only three hours a night? Why won’t he let anyone visit his apartment? Why does he give different people different answers when they ask what his birthday is?

You almost wonder which publication caters to readers with a short attention span.