Last week, Mark Leibovich's profile of Politico maestro Mike Allen spurred debate about his influence. Many D.C. insiders affirmed the value of Allen's Beltway cheat-sheet Playbook, but the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz remains skeptical. "I'm afraid I don't get it," wrote the Post's resident media critic, pondering the nature of Playbook as the source of Allen's power:
His claim to fame, the justification for that lengthy Mark Leibovich profile, is his daily digest called the Playbook. The theory is simple: If anyone who's anyone is reading it, the person who writes it must be what Joe Biden would call a BFD. It provides a bit of connective tissue in a sometimes cold and overworked town. But if the thing is merely a digest of items from elsewhere, with a few scooplets, birthdays and insider gossip thrown in, is the column really . . . influential?
While Kurtz concedes that aggregation has become a staple of journalism in the Internet age -- "no one has time to watch and read everything." -- he takes issue with the idea that fast-paced repackaging of content yields real power. "Is even a master aggregator a Washington power broker?" Kurtz wonders. "Or is he [Allen] a symbol of the clout of Politico, whose fast-paced metabolism has upended the established journalistic order headed by, yes, the New York Times?"
Fellow aggregators Mediaite and Gawker stand up on behalf of the new media style, poking fun at Kurtz's lament. They also point out Kurtz's use of aggregation shows it will remain a staple of online journalism. "In an effort to make his point Kurtz pulls three rather long blog excerpts from other Washington insiders whose conclusion dovetails with his (Marc Ambinder, Ian Shapira, Jeffrey Goldberg), namely that longform, investigative journalism is still way more important than some cobbled together daily newsletter," writes Mediaite's Glynnis MacNicol." Yes it is. Same as the New Yorker is obviously far more important than People…but which are you more likely to pick up and scan in the waiting room?"
Gawker's Hamilton Nolan, meanwhile, isn't pulling any punches. "Of course it is a travesty to even contemplate a world in which Mike Allen's morning linkdump makes him the most influential journalist in DC," spits Nolan. "But the entire DC press corps is a travesty in general. So suck it up."