Politico shuffles reporters as it refocuses media coverage around politics

GettyImages 632509992Alex Wong/Getty ImagesMembers of the media raise their hands to ask questions during the daily White House briefing.

Politico is reassigning several of its media reporters to other beats as the publication shifts the tone of its media section to focus more on politics and less on industry news.

According to multiple sources who spoke with Business Insider on the condition of anonymity, Politico on Monday will reassign media reporters Peter Sterne and Kelsey Sutton to other beats. Media reporter Alex Weprin already moved to a night editing role earlier this month.

Media reporters Hadas Gold and Joe Pompeo will remain in their current roles as the organisation intends to focus more specifically on the intersection of media and politics.

“The Politico media beat is not going to continue to run the way it has. They are going to move it to DC and change it substantially. It will be more about the intersection between media and politics, and less about the business of media,” one source told Business Insider.

The shakeup is also part of the reorganization of Politico’s state politics initiative, which was previously headquartered in New York, but covered state politics in Florida, California, and New Jersey. Some staffers in New York are being asked to move to Washington to work out of Politico’s Rosslyn, Virginia, headquarters starting around May.

According to an internal memo deputy editor Reid Pillifant sent to staffers this month, managing editor Gillian Reagan will depart Politico on Friday for a new position at Shutterstock. Reagan oversaw the states project, and co-founded Capital New York with Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran, who both left in January.

Members of the New York team are said to be searching for jobs at other publications, though one source stressed that Politico was giving staffers a soft landing by allowing them to stay aboard in other roles.

The changes slightly curtail Politico’s four-year bid to replicate its success as a insider publication for New York readers.

Politico bought Capital New York in 2013, announcing that it would compete for state-level scoops with the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other state-level tabloids by quadrupling the publication’s staff and focusing “laser-like on New York and its power centres, including the media, city and state politics, culture and business.”

Capital New York relaunched as Politico New York in 2015, combining Capital New York and Politico media desks under McGeveran’s leadership that then-executive editor Jim VandeHei hoped would provide “more thorough reporting on the [media] industry for our subscribers and more stories that pop nationally on our main page.”

A year later, the organisation took down the paywall for its media stories, as some speculated the price for a media pro subscription was likely too high for many potential consumers.

There are different interpretations for the reshuffling of Politico’s media staff.

Two sources at Politico assigned some blame for the move on the company’s finances, suggesting Politico may not be able to afford to continue covering media industry news, and originally intended to offer it as a paid subscription product. Another pointed at VandeHei’s departure for Axios, saying new management did not prioritise the effort to own the business of media beat.

It’s unclear whether next week’s shakeup will be the last change for Politico’s media coverage.

A source at Politico also told Business Insider that there were internal “rumblings” the Morning Media newsletter run by Pompeo “could be axed if they are not able to find sponsors for it.” But another source at the organisation denied that the newsletter was in jeopardy, claiming that the media newsletter was one of the most highly-read at Politico.

Politico’s refocus on Washington comes at a moment when political media stories continued to dominate national headlines.

In his first months in office, President Donald Trump has been one of the most engaged consumers and critics of different media outlets.

The president frequently engages with media figures directly on Twitter, or references segments he’s seen on shows like “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Fox and Friends,” and “Morning Joe,” where advertisers and politicians often appeal to Trump directly as if he is watching.

Fox News pundits and Breitbart employees have filled out key posts in the new administration, while other conservative media figures have flirted with roles in the administration, or are waiting in the wings for the next rounds of hiring.

While networks like CNN and MSNBC have seen their ratings skyrocket, newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times have seen their subscriptions increase since Trump’s election in November. Even entertainment sites like the AV Club and Entertainment Weekly have begun blogging about the intersection between politics and the news media.

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