Politico editor in chief John Harris wrote a sort of meta-piece on the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s invocation of the assassination of Robert F Kennedy as an example of a Democratic primary that was still going in June. If you really read the piece, you’ll find it’s a sort of shameful confession of the fundamental sleaziness of the political media. His main point is, “Yes, we suck, and we’re surprised to find that the more established outlets suck just as badly as we do.”
Here’s how he puts it:
As leaders of a new publication, Politico’s senior editors and I are relentlessly focused on audience traffic. The way to build traffic on the Web is to get links from other websites. The way to get links is to be first with news — sometimes big news, sometimes small — that drives that day’s conversation.
We are unapologetic in our premium on high velocity. In this focus on links and traffic we are not different from nearly all news sites these days, not just new publications but established ones like The New York Times.
Here’s what John Harris said in January, 2007 when Politico launched:
We won’t usually be chasing the story of the day. We’ll put our emphasis on the “backstories” — those that illuminate the personalities, relationships, clashes, ideas and political strategies playing out in the shadows of official Washington.
Guess the race to the bottom lasts about 18 months.