When you attend the annual Milblog Conference, you can expect to hear defense hawks and the bloggers they love sniping at the media. But this year’s conference, hosted by Military.com for the first time and held over the weekend in Arlington, Va., featured a bonus — journalists sniping at each other.
The pointed but brief rhetorical clash between defense reporters Austin Wright of Politico and Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post occurred as the two pondered the changing media landscape. It got personal when Wright framed the discussion in the context of the rise of Politico and corresponding fall of the Post (as seen most recently in another round of buyouts and an 8 percent drop in revenue).
He credited Politico’s success in part to its mastery of “niche journalism.” “Politico specializes in politics, and if advertisers want to reach people in politics, they advertise in Politico. If people want to advertise to people who watch sports, they advertise in ESPN,” Wright said. “And it’s harder to figure out what the audience is for The Washington Post because it’s such a broad [audience]. I think it’s a really big problem.”
Jaffe’s journalistic hackles raised at that last comment:
Wright reassured the audience that he is a big fan of the Post but also took a dig at the competing publication: “I might be their youngest subscriber.”
“I love The Washington Post,” he added, “and I’ve been very sad to watch as it has been shrinking. But I do think that Politico does offer something that people want. We offer insider journalism for people that know politics. I think that’s extremely valuable, as we’ve seen. And even as Politico has had success, I don’t cheer on the demise of our competitors.”
James Dao of At War, a New York Times blog, also joined the discussion as part of a panel on the military and the media, and not surprisingly, he defended the “generalists” at publications like the Times and the Post.
“You can get sports; you can get business; you can get style; you can get news; you can get international news, etc.,” Dao said. “The death of papers means that people aren’t going to get that broad view of things. They’re not going to get a broad range of viewpoints.”
Ultimately, the panelists seemed to agree on one point: The expectations of today’s online readers have created a market for both brief, up-to-the-minute, blog-style coverage and long-form journalism. The 500-word story is the real loser.
Filed under: Blogging and Business and Media and People