WashPost Warns: 'Politico Implodes' with Staff Departures

Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple isn’t subtle in describing an exodus of top staffers from Politico. His headline is “Politico Implodes.” It sounds like an internal battle with the boss, Robert Allbritton, as Politico seeks to expand its reach.

In what can be described only as a cataclysm in Beltway media, CEO Jim VandeHei is leaving Politico, the eight-year-old politics website that shook up Washington journalism, according to sources and reports by Huffington Post and CNNMoney.

And in what can be described only as a mega-cataclysm, Politico Chief White House correspondent Mike Allen is joining VandeHei in rushing toward the exits of Politico’s Rosslyn headquarters. Allen writes the daily franchise newsletter “Politico Playbook.” A bearer of occasional scoops, Allen is the driver of very frequent revenue. Weekly sponsorships for “Playbook” run in the $50,000 to $60,000 range this year, depending on the news cycle. And that’s not even rolling in the big money that comes from “Politico Playbook” conferences/interviews anchored by Allen. His work alone — complete with ethical issues — subsidized a platoon of Politico reporters.

It doesn’t end there: Kim Kingsley, the Chief Operating Officer is leaving as well. Kingsley has provided the glue that bridged Politico’s newsroom and its business side as the site sprinted to revenues approaching $20 million just years after launching. She headed the colonization of radio and cable-news airwaves that helped establish Politico as a preferred Washington source both for readers and advertisers. The company’s successful events business was also an obsession of Kingsley’s. Other departures are Danielle Jones and Chief Revenue Officer Roy Schwartz.

If this is a “mega-cataclysm,” it’s going to unfold slowly. "Rushing for the exits" isn't quite right: VandeHei, Allen, and Schwartz are all staying through the end of the election in November. It sounds like VandeHei is taking a chunk of his team to another venture.

NewsBusters staff best remember VandeHei for selecting this odd hardball question for Mitt Romney in a 2007 debate: "What do you dislike most about America?" Romney failed to say "The liberal media, for asking stupid, pointless hardballs like this."

VandeHei, a founding editor of Politico in 2007 as he departed The Washington Post, issued a memo/eulogy: “We created one of the most respected and feared brands in journalism -- and one of the few with a business model based on real results, not mythology or hope. Our editorial and business formulas, culture and management approach work and scale exceptionally well.”

Wemple called it “depressing news for journalism.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis