Leibovich on Mike Allen, and What Makes a Powerful Washington Journalist

Like almost everyone else in Washington, I know Mike Allen, the subject of Mark Leibovich's Times Magazine piece this coming weekend (yes, an article that has technically not yet appeared has already been comprehensively dissected).  I first met Mike at a conference on religion in Key West, and within four minutes, he was interviewing me on the buffet line. I can't remember what about, but I recall his tape recorder being very close to my face. He is, as advertised, kind, sympathetic, devout, and manically hard-working, but I'm not sure I agree with Leibovich's premise, that Mike's Politico Playbook makes him the most important journalist in Washington. I think I agree with Marc Ambinder, that Leibovich's colleague Peter Baker might be the most important journalist in Washington:

... as influential as Mike is, and he knows this, a page one New York Times story by Peter Baker on a subject will set the agenda far more than Mike's daily messaging will.  The White House understands this, too.

I would also nominate, by the way, Mark Leibovich as a potential "Most Important Journalist," because of his ability to make his profile subjects look like rock stars, on the one hand, and to make others look like complete idiots, on the other (I'm sure John Kerry would agree.) Leibovich's profiles, like Baker's analysis pieces, have non-perishable impact.  Leibovich, I should note, is an actual friend of mine (as opposed to a Washington friend), so please discount, if you feel you must, anything I say about him.

I called Leibovich to tell him that I think his fabulous piece might have had it wrong, and he said, tellingly, "I think the piece is about what is, not what should be." He went on, "Maybe that sounds arrogant, but I obviously have a bias toward The New York Times way of writing about the day's events, and not only because this is the team I play for. I think a fuller sense of the day's events can be ascertained in the Times, but I also think the world is changing and Politico has exploited that, furthered that, and benefited from that."

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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