There’s a media war brewing in Washington D.C.Back in May, Atlantic Media Company owner David Bradley spoke with The New York Observer about how National Journal, the weekly political magazine his company bought in 1997, was gearing up to take on its game-changing rival, Politico.
He clearly wasn’t messing around.
Over the past few weeks, National Journal has steadily announced one new editorial hire after another, each name a bit more high profile than the last.
The “nationwide talent search,” as National Journal refers to it in its press releases, seemed to climax Thursday with the announcement that Major Garret was leaving his post as Fox News Channel’s White House reporter to join National Journal as a Congressional correspondent.
A day earlier, on August 24, National Journal named veteran Washington journalist and key “Plamegate” player Matt Cooper as its new managing editor. That followed announcements the previous week that it had recruited The Atlantic’s influential politics editor/blogger Marc Ambinder, along with USA Today correspondent Aamer Madhani, as well as tapping political analyst and former George W. Bush pollster Matthew Dowd as a columnist.
And before that, it had snatched up: The Wall Street Journal’s Yochi Dreazen, Sue Davis, and Fawn Johnson; Politico’s Josh Kraushaar, Coral Davenport, and Tim Alberta; the Tribune Washington Bureau’s Jim Tankersley; Campaigns and Elections’ Jeremy Jacobs; and Modern Healthcare’s Matt Dobias.
“We’ll have a few more hires to announce in the next couple of weeks,” a National Journal spokesperson told us. And they will presumably be big ones, if the order in which NJ has rolled out the announcements so far is any indication.
So is Politico shaking in its boots? Or perhaps furious that a rival publication has captured several of its own?
“It’s a great age for Washington journalism, and I wish the NJ gang luck with their launch,” Jim VandeHei, Politico’s executive editor, said in an email, responding to a question about whether Politico is worried about losing readers and scoops to National Journal’s newly-assembled all-star team.
That’s a nice way of putting it. The way Bradley has spoken of Politico, on the other hand, not so much.
“Politico introduced a whole new standard of, I wouldn’t say quality, but I would say velocity and metabolism,” he said in the Observer piece. “They are going to be at the more racy, tabloid end of the spectrum … That seems to be the position they have chosen. I think we’ll be more of the authoritative end.”
It’s worth noting that National Journal’s hiring spree follows a period of large turnover at Politico earlier this year in the spring. Most notably, White House reporter Eamon Javers bailed for CNBC. Among other departures, gossip reporter Anne Shroeder Mullins left to start her own firm and media reporter Michael Calderone took a job at Yahoo! News.
But Politico has scored some valuable staffers in exchange, including former New York Post powerhouse Maggie Haberman, and they still have big names like Mike Allen and Ben Smith. (Also: What to make of suspended MSNBC host David Shuster’s reported meeting Wednesday with VandeHei and COO Kim Kingsley?) Point is, it’s not like they’re ill-equipped for a challenge.
And they apparently have a bit more time to prepare for one than was expected.
National Journal’s big web relaunch, which is central to its transformation, has been pushed back from mid-September to October, the spokesperson said, at which point some of the magazine’s content will be put in front of the site’s paywall so NJ can finally step into the online ring, so to speak.
Meanwhile, we asked Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet how he felt about Ambinder jumping ship within the company. He said Ambinder hadn’t been “poached” as we’d previously suggested.
“The Atlantic’s editors were fully involved in the conversations about Marc’s future and are supportive of this move as great for Marc’s growth as a reporter and writer and great for NJ,” Bennet said through a spokesman.
“We’re glad Marc will stay in his current role through the midterms and remain in the family as an Atlantic contributing editor after that. By the midterms, we’ll announce our plans for the future growth of The Atlantic Politics Channel.”
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