THE PLANK APRIL 1, 2009
Several weeks ago, I wrote a feature in TNR that described POLITICO's hyper-caffeinated approach to political reporting. This morning, Politico editor-in-chief John Harris and Executive Editor Jim VandehHei sent a memo to their staff instructing them to be calling and emailing sources at 5am and 6am to post stories at sunrise. "Going forward, we expect POLITICO reporters to "Win the Dawn." Each of you should be focused on working your beats in order to file some kind of story that is ready for posting by no later than 6 a.m. each morning," Harris and VandeHei wrote. They went on to warn their staff against succumbing to the summer doldrums: "We understand this will require a change of habits for many of you. To
be blunt, the summer doldrums that we have warned of in the past have
set in a bit earlier this year. This morning, as on many mornings, Mike
Allen and we both observed that the newsroom was largely empty at 6:30.
It's hard to win if you aren't even in the game."
The memo, in all its glory below:
Gang,As you know, at POLITICO we live by a "Win the Morning" philosophy. As Jim likes to say, "velocity matters." On the Web, a gap of even a few minutes in posting breaking news can be the difference between tens of thousands of people reading a story and POLITICO getting credit for an exclusive, and a story simply getting lost in the noise.We all need to face the fact that as competition grows on the web, velocity matters even more than it used to. For that matter, winning the morning in a traditional sense no longer cuts it. Many White House and congressional aides are at their desks very early. And the TV producers who scan POLITICO and our competition are up and at 'em long before sunrise.For this reason, we are shifting our sights a bit in ways that will have implications for all of us. Going forward, we expect POLITICO reporters to "Win the Dawn." Each of you should be focused on working your beats in order to file some kind of story that is ready for posting by no later than 6 a.m. each morning.This is not as hard as it may sound. With a quick round of e-mails or calls to your sources between 5 and 6 each morning you can easily learn what's will drive the Washington conversation that day. In fact, these pre-sunrise hours are often the best time to reach top officials or their aides, who will be busy in meetings at other times of the day.Once you file, remember that your work is not done. Make sure you are watching the morning cable shows, since there may be comments that should be inserted in your stories. Our PR team will be on duty to promote our stories and make sure POLITICO gets the credit for exclusives.We understand this will require a change of habits for many of you. To be blunt, the summer doldrums that we have warned of in the past have set in a bit earlier this year. This morning, as on many mornings, Mike Allen and we both observed that the newsroom was largely empty at 6:30. It's hard to win if you aren't even in the game.By no means do we expect people to work all the time. All of us have to balance work with other obligations. You should try to carve out personal time, if you need it, in the mid-afternoon hours when Web traffic naturally tends to slow a bit. But we certainly need to be back in the newsroom by the late afternoon hours in order to meet print deadlines and also to "Win the Evening" in time for the network newscasts and cable political talk shows.The emphasis on breaking news does not relieve us of the obligation to have smart, in-depth enterprise. We want that, too.All of us should consider ourselves lucky, as a growing publication in an industry that is going through tumultuous changes, to be able to work these hours. Please consult with your editor today to go over a list of stories that can be popped by sunrise tomorrow, and on other mornings going forward.Thanks,VandeHarris
UPDATE: VandeHarris may be joking, but Mike Allen isn't. From Playbook today (posted at 6:20am). "We’ll be on Europe time while the White
House staff and press are overseas."