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ANALYSIS: Ben Shapiro May Have Unintentionally Tanked A Rival News Rag

(Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Politicon)

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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When conservative megastar Ben Shapiro filled in for a single day to write Politico’s daily Playbook newsletter, he likely had no idea it would lead the outlet’s employees to launch a (potentially disastrous) unionizing effort months later.

Many writers at Politico were outraged that the outlet’s leadership allowed Shapiro to author the Politico Playbook back in early January, days after allowing left-wing MSNBC host Chris Hayes to write his own Playbook. The writers were so angry, in fact, that they are now attempting to create a union — thanks in part to Politico’s leaders not backing down or apologizing for allowing Shapiro to guest host. (RELATED: ‘I Cover The News, Wherever That Takes Me’: Politico Playbook Pits Chris Wallace Against Jake Tapper Over Booking Republicans)

“We have taken great care to assemble a roster of guest authors who are prominent thinkers and writers and represent a range of perspectives,” Politico said in a statement at the time, according to Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple. “What sets Politico apart in this intense political and media moment is that we rise above partisanship and ideological warfare — even as many seek to drag us into it.”

Conservative political commentator, writer and lawyer Ben Shapiro waves to the crowd as he arrives to speak at the 2018 Politicon in Los Angeles, California on October 21, 2018. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Conservative political commentator, writer and lawyer Ben Shapiro waves to the crowd as he arrives to speak at the 2018 Politicon in Los Angeles, California on October 21, 2018. – The two day event covers all things political with dozens of high profile political figures. (Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Many of the staffers reportedly took to the Politico’s company-wide Slack channel to complain. (RELATED: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Says Congress Must ‘Rein In’ Media Environment)

“It has clearly generated a wave of negative attention, and I fear it’s already overshadowing a lot of great work being done by journalists across this newsroom,” the staffer said, according to the Daily Beast. Several dozen of this staffer’s Politico colleagues reportedly upvoted this comment.

“This is especially confusing given the newsroom’s welcome efforts over the last year to cover issues related to race in a more intentional, elevated, thoughtful way,” another staffer reportedly responded. (RELATED: ‘We Have A List’: Pundits And Democrats Plan To Hold Trump Supporters Accountable)

When hundreds of Politico employees joined a group call discussing the decision, top editor Matt Kaminski reportedly didn’t mince words, telling staffers that Shapiro’s writing had been “very closely edited,” and that Politico stood “by every word in there.”

“Mischief making has always been a part of Politico’s secret sauce,” he added. “We were an upstart. Some of that sensibility is always going to be a part of this publication.” (RELATED: Liberal Media Suggests Biden Should Take Aggressive Approach To Censoring Conservative Media)

Now, Politico writers are gathering signatures and holding informational sessions with editorial teams in an attempt to galvanize support for unionizing, according to Axios. Organizers within the company are seeking enough signatures to present a compelling statement to management in favor of unionizing. Sources told Axios the Shapiro fiasco was one of several motivating factors.

Politico spokesman Brad Dayspring told Axios that the outlet’s publisher “understands that the decision to form a union is the choice of the newsroom employees who would be impacted by it, and POLITICO would respect the process and the majority decision of those employees.”

Successful unionization efforts at news organizations have frequently been the death knell for many of the journalists working at the organization, if not for the outlet itself. (RELATED: ‘How *Do* You Deprogram 75 Million People?’ — California Democrat Wants ‘Post WWII’-Type Re-Education For Conservatives)

Two other New York City-based digital publications DNAinfo and Gothamist, successfully unionized a week before billionaire Joe Ricketts, who owned the outlets, shut them down in 2017, partly due to the increased cost of working with unions.

Successful unionization efforts also preceded mass layoffs at Gawker Media, Vox Media, Mic and Vice News all in the past few years.

The high-profile Buzzfeed News unionization effort following massive layoffs in 2019 seems to have concluded with a blog post titled “Disappointed is an understatement.”

The union stated in the post that “under [newsroom] management’s proposal, not a single person in the newsroom would receive a raise as a result of implementing new minimums.” It remains to be seen what the outcome will be.