Politico is having a good media month. First, Michael Wolff wrote glowingly about them in his Vanity Fair column (though he didn't always feel that way). And last night, Charlie Rose brought Politico owner Robert Allbritton, editor-in-chief John Harris, executive editor Jim Vande Hei, and senior reporter Ben Smith to his table for a chat. Rose largely praised the site, and allowed his guests to talk triumphantly about their winning formula. Vande Hei talked about "winning the morning," as his colleague Mike Allen put it in his staff memo.
Coming off the heels of the Washington Post salon-meltdown, I couldn't help but detect a sense of triumphalism, if not outright glee, among the Politico guys. When I wrote about the newsroom last winter, I saw them as confident and ambitious, but in the months since, they've become even more assured of their success. They exude a feeling that their model is working and that their alpha-dog sensibility defines this media moment. They know they have power and the collapse of the newspaper industry will only make them more powerful. They are wiring themselves into the Washington conversation and they're psyched.
At one point, Rose asked Harris if the Post will survive. Harris paused for an instant. "They will in radically-altered form," he answered. "And those changes will be very painful to make, but when they make them the end result will be more vibrant than it is today."
It was a telling response. Harris runs a startup only three years old, and he was schooling his alma mater on its survival strategy. Rose followed up and asked Harris what they Post needs to change. "They got to decide the topics they own. The Sears, Roebuck model of journalism--you got autoparts here, mens wear, sporting goods--that is over."