Did you know that Republican congressional candidate Nathan Bech wants U.S. Rep. John Olver to save the planet by not sending mail to constituents who don’t want it? Or that Watertown councilor Jonathan Hecht is running hard for a state rep’s seat? Or that former Ted Kennedy aide Melody Barnes has signed on with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign?
These are just a few of the tidbits you can glean at PolitickerMA.com, which slipped quietly into view in mid-June. The goal of the Politicker project is to provide intensive coverage of state and local politics, combining original reporting with blogging on what other media outlets are saying.
I mentioned Politicker earlier this year when James Pindell, who blogged the New Hampshire primary for Boston.com, left to become the national managing editor. So far, Politicker has set up shop in about 15 states, according to the list under “PolitickerMA Partners.” The goal is to launch a Politicker site in all 50 states.
In an instant-message conversation with my Reinventing the News students this past spring, Pindell said Politicker’s revenue base will likely be issue-oriented ads aimed at the political and public-policy community in Massachusetts. Smart move. It doesn’t strike me that anyone is going to read Politicker other than serious political junkies. The mass media are giving way to many little niches, and Politicker aims to occupy one of those niches.
Politicker reminds me of a slicker PoliticsNH.com, which Pindell ran during the 2004 primary season, and which no longer exists. (Politicker appears to have acquired the name, as it now forwards to PolitickerNH.com.) Pindell’s earlier project became briefly famous for sponsoring a contest to find a wife for Dennis Kucinich, who was then single. It was great fun, though Elizabeth Harper, the woman whom the congressman later married, was not one of the contestants.
Another similarity to PoliticsNH is the presence of an anonymous columnist. At PolitickerMA, the nom de opinion is “Wally Edge.” In a story in the New York Times back in February, Politicker founder Robert Sommer (who’s also publisher of the New York Observer) described the undercover columnists who are being turned loose in each state as “the secret sauce,” and could include lobbyists, political consultants and former officeholders. Edge’s views seem benign enough so far, but I’m skeptical about this innovation. I’d rather such insiders be identified so we know their associations and potential conflicts.
PolitickerMA’s staff reporter is Jeremy Jacobs, a recent graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism who has worked for The Hill, among other places.
An early fan of PolitickerMA is Bay Windows editor Laura Kiritsy, who writes that the site “has already provided me with hours of late-night, on-deadline procrastinating thrills.” Kiritsy especially likes the lists of best and worst Massachusetts campaigns, which are pretty amusing.
Oddly enough, there are no RSS feeds [correction below] at PolitickerMA, though you can sign up for a daily e-mail.
As the news-media landscape morphs into something totally new, PolitickerMA is the sort of project that’s worth keeping a close eye on.
State House News Service does a good job of covering the Legislature, but it charges high subscription fees and is aimed mostly at media and political professionals.
Blue Mass Group rounds a lot of political news, but it’s partisan and almost wholly dependent on what its members can find in other media.
Politicker is exciting because it suggests a possible way out of the morass in which journalism finds itself these days. If it succeeds, it will occupy a sweet spot between full-service news organizations, which are shrinking, and citizen journalism, which is important but which does not meet the need for a reliable, edited news report.
And it gives young journalists who wish to cover politics some reason to hope that they’ll be able to make a living at it.
Correction: Robert David Sullivan has found an RSS feed. I was deceived by the lack of an RSS symbol in Firefox.