I recently stumbled across http://www.politico.com, the online home of Politico launched in January 2007, a nonpartisan political journalism organization based in Virginia. Politico’s content mostly covers national politics: Congress and daily life on Capitol Hill, lobbying and advocacy, and the presidency. Politico provided extensive coverage of the 2008 presidential election and covered other local races as well. Here is more information on how Politico was started.
According to their mission statement, Politico’s journalists “won’t usually be chasing the story of the day.” Instead, their emphasis is on “backstories — those that illuminate the personalities, relationships, clashes, ideas and political strategies playing out in the shadows of official Washington.”
What is unique about Politico is that its circulation and distribution is flexible. This free newspaper can print up to five issues a week while Congress is in session, or only one issue a week when Congress is in recess. Its revenue comes mostly from full-page ads from trade associations and classified ads for political jobs in Washington, D.C. Some of Politico’s partners include major news outlets such as CBS News and Yahoo! News. According to Katharine Seelye in her New York Times article about Politico, “If The Politico succeeds, it could signal that the Web has become a more plausible alternative for mainstream journalists.”
The Politico has been described as a narrowly defined news outlet, with a very Washington-centric political focus.
Politico’s homepage attempts to strike a balance between providing political information and hosting political discussion but fails in doing so since it is primarily a news site. While it mainly provides information and updates on the daily issues of Washington, D.C., it also has two specific areas where it tries to facilitate dicussion, in addition to the ability to comment after a story: the Arena, and the Community.
The Arena appears to be a moderated discussion on a specific topic chosen by the moderator – today, the topic is about Obama’s expansion of offshore drilling. People respond with their opinions, although it seems like most of the active participants in this discussion are people with some sort of academic or professional background in politics and law.
The Community, on the other hand, is a messageboard/forum of conversations sparked by Politico’s articles. The participants appear to be the everyday visitor. Many of the more popular conversations have hundreds of posts and thousands of views.
It seems that Politico does a better job of managing the messages it tries to convey to readers, rather than facilitating genuinely open and public discourse. The number of users of the forums in the Community are simply too small a percentage, and the Arena fails even more at hosting open discussion since many of its responses are moderated and its participants are academically/professionally involved in the field of politics.