Politico Co-Founder John Harris Returning As Top Editor

From a Washington Post story by Jeremy Barr headlined “Politico co-founder John Harris returning as top editor”:

John F. Harris, the former Washington Post journalist who co-founded Politico in 2007, will return to daily newsroom management as the publication’s global editor in chief later this summer.

In addition to overseeing the publication’s international journalism, Harris will lead Politico’s domestic coverage, replacing Matthew Kaminski, who has served as U.S. editor since 2019. Kaminski will leave that role at the end of August to become an editor at large, focusing on writing and “working on projects that support Politico’s ambitions,” according to a memo Monday morning from Politico Media CEO Goli Sheikholeslami.

Sheikholeslami told employees that Kaminski was “candid in expressing his readiness for a new professional challenge” and that Harris, 59, was excited about the possibility of running a newsroom again. She said that Harris’s background as co-founder of Politico “gives him a unique perspective to see and seize opportunities others may not.”

Kaminski had originally replaced Harris when he stepped down as U.S. editor in chief back in 2019. Since then, Harris has served as chair of the publication’s editorial advisory board.

At the time, Harris had said that he noticed Politico’s journalists “might be having more fun” than he was as editor. He feels differently now.

“There are really cool opportunities in front of us, and I found myself interested in them, curious about them, and passionate about them in ways that I haven’t felt in a long, long time,” Harris said in an interview Monday afternoon. “I am more interested in the place and its future than I have been for a while.”

In particular, he cited the support of Axel Springer, the German media conglomerate that bought the company in 2021, as well as the return of two Politico veterans who were hired back from the New York Times: political reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin.

Harris said he was not “drafted” into the role.

“They didn’t come to me and say, ‘Please, John, help us,’” Harris said. “I came to them and said, ‘I think, given the possibilities of the publication, I might be the person for it.’”

Considering his history at the publication, “I think I’ve got a voice that carries on some of the most sensitive questions about strategy and our future,” Harris added.

As part of the new leadership structure, the publication will no longer be looking to hire a top U.S. editor. In March, executive editor Dafna Linzer departed — after only a year on the job — after clashing with Kaminski, The Post reported at the time.

Jamil Anderlini, who serves as top editor of Politico’s Europe operation, will continue in his role and report to Harris.

Sheikholeslami said Monday that Politico is at a “pivot point.” The publication, which has a newsroom of around 650 journalists, was named a finalist in the breaking-news category for the 2023 Pulitzer Prizes — and won a George Polk Award — for a blockbuster story that shared a draft opinion of the Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Politico is currently profitable. At a recent town hall meeting, Sheikholeslami announced a goal of doubling total global revenue by 2027.

Going forward, Harris said that his focus will be on increasing Politico’s journalistic impact, both domestically and abroad.

“I think there’s an opportunity to take this place further and faster than ever,” he said.

Jeremy Barr covers the media industry for The Washington Post.

—–
Also see the New York Times story by Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson headlined “John Harris Named Top Editor at Politico”

Politico said Monday that its top U.S. editor was stepping down and would be replaced by one of the publication’s co-founders, John Harris, who will also take on additional responsibilities for the media outlet’s international editions.

Matt Kaminski, who joined Politico nearly a decade ago from The Wall Street Journal, will conclude his tenure as editor in chief at the end of August, Goli Sheikholeslami, Politico’s chief executive, said in an email to the staff on Monday.

The new role for Mr. Harris, who had been serving as editorial chair, will be expanded to include all of Politico’s editorial units, Ms. Sheikholeslami said in her memo.

“To be clear: John is not returning to a job he once had,” she said. “To the contrary, he is stepping into a new role as the single top editorial executive in the company, with newsrooms in the United States and Europe reporting to him.”

After Mr. Kaminski finishes in his role, he will become editor at large at Politico and focus on writing, Ms. Sheikholeslami said in the email.

The change is the latest to the top ranks of Politico. In March, the executive editor, Dafna Linzer, who reported to Mr. Kaminski, stepped down after a year in the job. Mr. Kaminski acknowledged in an email to staff at the time that he and Ms. Linzer “saw ourselves diverging” over Politico’s strategic direction.

In her email, Ms. Sheikholeslami credited Mr. Kaminski for expanding Politico’s newsroom and bolstering coverage of technology, energy, national security, the states and the judiciary. She noted that Mr. Kaminski had steered Politico through several election cycles and the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, Politico was named a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting for its coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, giving states full power to regulate abortion. Two Politico reporters, Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, wrote an article that included a draft opinion of the decision, a rarity for the tight-lipped high court, setting off alarm bells during the run-up to the court’s announcement later in the year.

Mr. Harris founded Politico with Jim VandeHei and Robert Allbritton in 2007, intending to shake up Washington political coverage with fast insider dispatches for online readers. In 2016, Mr. VandeHei and the star reporter Mike Allen left Politico to start the competing news site, Axios. Mr. Allbritton recently put $20 million into the nonprofit Allbritton Journalism Institute, which will train aspiring political reporters.

In 2021, Politico, by then much more than just a Beltway news site, with a European edition, a network of newsletters and a lucrative policy platform, was bought by the German publishing giant Axel Springer for $1 billion.

Substantial friction among Politico’s co-founders in the past over the direction of the company had motivated Mr. VandeHei’s exodus.

Mr. Harris said in an interview on Monday that he was willing to return to day-to-day leadership of Politico, in part, because the sale of the publication to Axel Springer had unlocked new opportunities for expansion and growth. He said that his previous role at the company was somewhat ill defined, and that the new appointment gave him the authority to make changes.

“I told our new owners at Axel Springer and Goli I wanted in,” he said.

Benjamin Mullin is a media reporter for The Times, covering the major companies behind news and entertainment.

Katie Robertson is a media reporter. She previously worked as an editor and reporter at Bloomberg and News Corporation Australia.

Speak Your Mind

*