Monday, November 24, 2008

Politico Might Have Jumped the Shark

Politico.com seemed like an interesting concept when it launched in January 2007 - it was an attempt to break the stranglehold on the news from established newspapers and news channels. In recent months, however, I've become less impressed. On the surface, they spent much of the last three months finding every possible negative in everything Sarah Palin did during the campaign - a feature they've continued even after the election. They've also had a new story up just about every day since the election reporting the same story of how the Republican Party is "in turmoil" or "searching for itself," or something along those lines. Then they admitted that their reporting was biased, but explained it away as the result of Obama having such a great campaign.

Of course, this doesn't make them much different from the rest of the press, much of which has admitted that their reporting was tremendously biased towards Obama. On a more substantive level, Politico simply doesn't seem to offer anything to make it more than a gossip tabloid. They take to a whole new level this silly habit of calling political happenings a "conversation." Their blogs say they're "advancing the conversation or Joe the Plumber was "driving the conversation" the day after the third debate. Despite these claims, however, you'll be hard pressed to find any treatment of the issues on the website. No analysis of Obama's tax proposals, comparison of the health care plans of the two candidates or in depth look at the proposals for winning in Afghanistan. It was all focused on the process - where candidates bought ads, fundraising totals, latest polls, etc. This is all well and good for an election, but what do you do after?

Well, Politico has launched Politico44 as an answer to that question. Right now its mostly gossip about Cabinet selections and where the Obama girls will go to school, which is fine for the two months or so of the transition. But not all of a president's four year term is as newsmaking as the election and transition. If they have to keep reinventing what they offer, they might find they get fewer and fewer readers, especially if each new idea is as ridiculous as their previous new idea. Take for example their latest new idea: a calendar of Obama's whereabouts during the transition. The only problem, however, is that each day consists of Obama going to the gym, going home, going to his office, and going home. Every day. Occasionally he'll go to a restaurant, but not often. When there is any additional information, it includes the exact number of minutes he spent at the gym and details on how his motorcade took a wrong turn through Hyde Park. You can scroll through three weeks of this.

I can't decide yet if this consists of Politico jumping the shark. For their entire existence, there's been an election to cover. If this is how they adjust to new demands, I'm sure their future offerings will be as ridiculously entertaining as this.

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