Mike Allen: Washington Maven or White House Stooge?

Politico's workhorse gets the New York Times treatment

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Drafted in the wee hours of the morning, Mike Allen's daily political newsletter Playbook is a must-read for Washington's chattering classes. So when The New York Times Magazine rolls out a 8,000+ word profile on him, the commentariat naturally has a lot to say. Times reporter Mark Leibovich depicts Allen as an uncanny workaholic who never seems to sleep. He describes Playbook as "an insider's hodgepodge of predawn news, talking-point previews, scooplets, birthday greetings to people you've never heard of, random sightings ('spotted') around town and inside jokes." Here's what Allen's peers in the media think of the profile:

  • Yep, That's Mike, says Michael Shear at The Washington Post: "The piece captures Mike perfectly -- he's a manic, inscrutable, tireless, scooper-upper of facts and rumors who is perfectly suited to what he's doing now. Like most other Washingtonians, I read his 'Playbook' first thing in the morning, and if you don't know Mike, you would marvel at how he could possibly do it. Reading the profile confirms what everyone suspects -- he's just everywhere, talking to everyone, and cajoling little bits of information that he can fill Playbook with."
  • Who Cares!? complains Alex Pareene at Gawker: "This is such terrible inside baseball that, honestly, I don't expect any living human being not currently employed by a web publication charged with 'covering' the political media to have clicked through."
  • A Lot of People Care, counters Linda Perlstein at The Educated Reporter: "You don’t have to be into inside-baseball politics to appreciate an interesting piece about somebody who is. A great profile about a person you know will capture him perfectly yet still teach you a lot."
  • Allen Is a Cozy Friend of the White House, notes Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite: "Allen, who does wield enormous power in Washington, has drawn fire in the past for sometimes being little more than a mouthpiece to pols (and/or Dick Cheney) who want to get their arguments out there without having to answer any questions."
  • Allen-Style Scoop Journalism Is 'Pernicious,' writes Matt Yglesias: "There are really two ways to break news. A Type 1 scoop is a story that if you don’t break, just won’t be broken. A Type 2 scoop is a pure race for priority. You get Type 2 scoops by becoming the favored destination for deliberate leaks, or by ferreting out information that will be officially announced soon enough (Joe Biden will be Obama’s VP pick!), or by chasing down an obvious-but-arduous-to-follow lead. These Type 2 scoops are structurally similar to 'breaking news' but they don’t have any real value. Far too often in Washington we have a dozen reporters following something, and then at the margin three more tag along. Meanwhile, almost nobody is doing enterprise work around investigating non-obvious issues."
  • But Gosh He's Successful! marvels Joe Pompeo at Business Insider: "Allen's influential daily email-column... reportedly brings in an estimated $780,000 per year in ad revenue for Politico. (Leibovich notes that Allen 'could sell the franchise for a sum that could easily exceed seven figures.')"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.