Covering Politics in the Digital Age: Press Roundtable with Editor-in-Chief of Politico
John F. Harris, co-founder and editor-in-chief of POLITICO and politico.com, a newspaper and website covering Capitol Hill politics, spoke at a press roundtable hosted by the U.S. Embassy and the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Berlin on Monday, November 19, 2012.
The event titled “Covering Politics in the Digital Age,” was held at the Berlin bureau of Der Spiegel; among the audience were chief-editors and representatives of major German newspapers and broadcasting stations.
Mr. Harris provided a detailed analysis of the media climate during the recent elections in the United States. This new media climate is “segmented and fragmented,” echoing much of the conversation of a divided country in the election itself. It has become fragmented ideologically, as media outlets, such as Fox News and talk show hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh, have created a billion-dollar conservative echo-chamber, a concept that is being replicated on the left with MSNBC. In terms of segmentation, the election messaging targeted very small segments of the American population, this in turn made the most recent contest a “small election” in many ways. Although large in terms of the extraordinary length of the campaign season and record amount of money spent, the race for the White House and congressional seats were thin when it came to actual substantive arguments. As a result, there was no overarching big policy debate between President Barack Obama and Republican contender, Mitt Romney, the majority of the electorate was more like a group of bystanders than participants, and the candidates themselves were miniaturized.
The following discussion touched upon the blurring boundaries between the “old” and “new” orders of journalism and the future of major newspapers both in terms of financial viability and types of new media employed. The group also looked at POLITICO’s business model including its focus on a particular news niche that provides its audience with political news through an insider’s prism, and the potential of adapting its type of brand to other settings, countries and issues.