Politico says it looked high and low but has landed on Carrie Budoff Brown to be its new editor. She replaces Susan Glasser, who is moving to Jerusalem to be with her husband, NYT bureau chief Peter Baker. Glasser replaced John Harris, the editor-in-chief who fled to Brussels to help organize the new European operation.
Brown, who has been with Politico since 2006 and became managing editor of the publications Brussels bureau a few years ago, will officially begin her duties in November.
Politico held a pretty awkward conference call Monday afternoon to announce the news.
During the call, Harris, joined by Robert Allbritton and publicist Brad Dayspring, basically reiterated a statement already issued by Politico. When it quickly came time for questions, no one was initially biting. Dayspring seemed a little incredulous — “not all at once,” he griped — until WaPo‘s Erik Wemple piped up to drop a stink bomb.
“Erik Wemple here,” he said in his thuggish, high-pitched voice.
Listeners could practically feel the groans of the execs running the call. (Why did we do this? We hate Erik Wemple. Remember the shit treatment he gave Mike Allen?)
Wemple asked, “Your editors have lasted not very long. Is picking Carrie from within the ranks giving the editor a greater term in the slot?”
Harris minorly scolded Wemple. “No, that was not my rationale,” he pointedly told Wemple. “The circumstances were reflective of her personal situation..her and Peter…had a personal family component to it.”
Then it was spin time. “One thing you’re getting at,” he continued, “I think there have been moments when we really benefited from an outside perspective. ..I thought it was a wonderful thing to be able to find someone from within our newsroom. She understands this place so well. She will be the ideal person [to realize] the full potential of this town. …There were some good candidates from outside.”
Harris repeatedly complimented Brown. “I looked externally at a lot of people … I looked internally,” he said. “She’s one of our originals who joined us in 2006, a month before Politico started publishing.” Sort of repeating himself, he soon added, “I’m really really really proud of Carrie who is a Politico original. She’s the exact right person to lead our newsroom. …Carrie, welcome home.”
Brown appropriately declared how “thrilled” she is to be back in the Rosslyn newsroom.
“I’m thrilled to be back here in Washington,” said Brown. “As John said, I started here as a reporter covering the Obama campaign. And now, eight years later, Politico is a power to be reckoned with. …That’s going to be my obsession starting now. I’m sad to leave Europe…it was a fabulous experience. But I’m thrilled to be back here and am ready to re-imerse myself in this newsroom.”
Allbritton chimed in, “She is someone who is very special for the company and for all of us. It just gives me great pride…” (blah blah blah).
Joe Pompeo, who covers media for Politico, was next up with a question. My apologies to Pompeo, who I enjoy reading, but I really can’t handle a reporter asking his own bosses questions and then actually listen.
What came next was a beautiful press release from Harris. “Our newsroom here in Rossyln is not done growing…new policy verticals…”
In the real release, which was emailed to press before the call, majorly buries the lede by waiting six graphs until announcing that Brown is the new editor.
He also spoke of their two decades of friendship.
In the nearly 20 years we have been friends, Susan has established herself as one of the most talented and innovative editors of our era. In the three years since she came to POLITICO, these gifts produced outsized results: our award-winning magazine, a redesigned site, new capacities in our newsroom for investigative enterprise and profiles. Excellence is the word we most associate with Susan, and her unyielding commitment to it mattered most in the realm of people. Recent years have seen an influx of talented reporters and editors to POLITICO—exceptionally creative journalists drawn to our original vision of a publication dominating politics and policy, and the new expressions of that vision Susan and her team were creating.
Susan, of course, will remain with our publication, as the editor in charge of our coverage, through the presidential election, then staying on as our new chief foreign affairs columnist from overseas. She will help Robert Allbritton and me in a strategic role as director of editorial innovation, as we look for ways to create new platforms and grow our brand globally. But finding someone to take her editor’s chair here in Rosslyn was among the most formidable assignments Robert has ever given me.
Really. Formidable? It’s not like Allbritton sent Harris off to war. He instructed him to hire a journalist.
Let’s return to Earth. So what was Harris looking for?
In this choice I was looking for someone who understands and represents POLITICO values; who will protect and expand the new platforms, such as the Magazine and Agenda, that we have built in recent years; who will constantly light fires of ambition and competitiveness and be fiercely intolerant of complacency. Most of all, I was looking for someone who shares my and Robert Allbritton’s commitment to POLITICO as team—who believes that great journalism and publication-building should be a joyfully collaborative enterprise, and the only way to do it right is to be having fun along the way.
FUN — just what Politico has always been known for.
Harris — whose overinflated memos are like Christmas morning even for someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday — said he was looking for an “orchestra conductor” in his post-Glasser editor. His ability to write exaggerated praise is always astounding. (Bolding, mine.)
This was the most serious deliberation on a leadership choice undertaken during POLITICO’s first decade, and after consulting widely I concluded that while there were some very intriguing outside candidates, it seemed to me there has never been a deeper or richer roster of journalistic talent inside POLITICO than right now. These are people who understand what makes our publication special. POLITICO is in their hearts. Their achievements are the most impressive in our history. The potential for future achievement is virtually unlimited. The challenge, it seems to me, is more akin to an orchestra conductor—how to make every instrument heard, and in full harmony with each other. It seemed ideal if we could find that person within our ranks.
She was a “star reporter” and an “accomplished editor.” She also thinks of Politico as something she helped birth.
“As a co-founder, Carrie has POLITICO in her blood, and her passion and protectiveness is like that of a parent for a child,” wrote Harris.
Also a plus…reporters don’t hate her.
“Finally, Carrie’s gift for human connection is an indispensable asset in a newsroom that is now a large place—filled with some people who have been here for years and others who have just arrived this year,” he wrote.”We are all equally POLITICO citizens, and part of POLITICO’s next great act.”
Wemple’s second question was really no nicer than his first. “When Politico launched in 2007 it clearly had an idea that the rest of the media was lazy and sitting on their asses…but now…it’s many years later, you guys have made this transformation…is there a big hole that Politico can exploit and work on the way you did back in 2007?”
Brown said Politico was “uniquely situated” for success considering their position in the world.
WSJ media writer Cassandra Jaramillo soon asked Brown, “What has kept you with Politico?”
Brown has some real nostalgia with Politico.
“No better people to cover this than then the people in this room,” she said, explaining that she’d always look around the room and know she was surrounded by the best of the best. “I am a competitive person and I can have that here. It is remarkable that it is 10 years.”