Journalists Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman will take over Politico’s Playbook newsletter in July, according to a memo from Editor-in-Chief John Harris sent to newsroom employees Sunday night:
I view the selection of this team as an exhilarating first stride in the next phase of our publication, one that will come fully into bloom this fall with the election of a new president.
The trajectory of Playbook — Mike Allen’s influential tipsheet that Beltway influentials wake up to — has been in limbo since Allen announced his impending departure earlier this year along with a slate of top talent including CEO Jim VandeHei. Palmer and Sherman were deemed likely candidates by CNN’s Dylan Byers (himself a Politico alum) earlier this year; at the time, the company said “no official decision” had been made.
The newsletter, which began as a “what’s happening” memo circulated to Politico higher-ups, has become a template for Politico’s fleet of scoopy newsletters that chronicle various political communities worldwide: the EU, American statehouses, and various segments of industry.
As its progenitor, Allen has become a well-known figure in D.C. political circles and built a sizable following. But in announcing Playbook’s handoff, Harris emphasized that the newsletter has become a “global brand” that transcends any one reporter:
Playbook, which began connected unmistakably to a single voice, is now a global brand. Playbook has transformed the way in which political and policy news is consumed. It has evolved into a best-in-class suite of newsletters at the national and local levels as well as a platform for live journalism through Playbook events.
The next iteration of Playbook, Harris says, will feature “a sleek, updated look and feel,” and the ability to share sections of the newsletter on social media. Also new will be various social accounts for Playbook, a concession to the trend toward developing strong distribution channels for content.
What won’t change, according to Harris: Playbook’s tendency to tell Washington movers “something new, truthful, and relevant” on a daily basis.
In an interview with The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg published Sunday night, Sherman said he’s interested in broadening Playbook’s audience to include a younger generation; Palmer said one area of interest is “the changing roles for women in Washington and women in politics.”
Here’s Harris’ memo:
At the start of the year, it was evident that one of the publication’s big tasks for 2016 would be to identify and help launch the next generation of POLITICO Playbook.
We have found the team who is ready for this job. The inheritors of this wonderful franchise created more than nine years ago by the incomparable Mike Allen are two of our newsroom’s very best, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman.
Their rise into this job is a terrific POLITICO story, since these two friends and collaborators effectively grew up together, in a professional sense, in our newsroom. They personify values—fierce competitiveness, love of the political game, journalistic integrity—that animate our entire publication. They will be joined by a friendly face, Daniel Lippman, who will be a force multiplier for Jake and Anna just as he was for Mike. I view the selection of this team as an exhilarating first stride in the next phase of our publication, one that will come fully into bloom this fall with the election of a new president.
Finding the right hands to grab this particular wheel was a tall order, to put it mildly. Playbook is a platform intimately identified with the entire publication, and its author is a singular force in Washington journalism. Mike, my friend of a quarter-century and fellow co-founder, is someone who marries his personal passions—curiosity, a gift for human connection, a zeal to inform, surprise, and delight—with his professional commitments more completely than anyone I’ve ever known.
Because 2017 is practically upon us already—with the presumptive nominees already settled, and a transition that will start the morning after the election—I made a judgment that we should let this team get to work sooner rather than later. This is an extraordinary election and a great opportunity to introduce the Playbook audience to a new team. Mike and Susan Glasser agreed with my thinking. So did Blake Hounshell, who is taking the lead for the newsroom in managing this transition. We will be looking to July as a month of baton-passing. Jake and Anna, with Daniel, will take over the daily newsletter on July 11. Mike will continue to headline events with them as Playbook founder all through the conventions. After this he will be working with me and Blake as adviser on the Playbook transition and also will be a leading contributor to our general election coverage.
Judging by comments people already have made to me, this move may not be our best-kept secret ever. That’s in part because the logic of Jake and Anna has been obvious from the moment Mike let us know last winter that he was ready for his next chapter. I spoke with many people inside and outside the publication who had ideas about Playbook or wanted to be considered as authors. But my sights never wavered from Anna and Jake. We shared the same vision of Playbook on several key points:
*First was a realization that Playbook, which began connected unmistakably to a single voice, is now a global brand. Playbook has transformed the way in which political and policy news is consumed. It has evolved into a best-in-class suite of newsletters at the national and local levels as well as a platform for live journalism through Playbook events. As you know, Ryan Heath at POLITICO.eu, writes a morning Playbook in Europe that is as indispensable to politicos and policy-makers as Mike is in Washington. In a half-dozen states, authors like Marc Caputo in Florida and Natasha Korecki in Illinois have similarly put themselves—and above all their reporting—at the center of the political conversation. And, of course, Mike’s creation was the template for our influential financial services newsletters, Ben White’s Morning Money out of New York and Francesco Guerrera’s Morning Exchange out of London, as well as for morning newsletters across all our policy verticals. Company-wide, we now greet readers early in the day with essential news in nearly 30 different morning products.
*Different people write in distinctive voices, but there are some unifying themes to our Playbooks that Jake, Anna, and Daniel are deeply invested in. One of the most important is a conviction that Playbook is not simply a news platform but a community. People are the key, and Playbook is a valuable tool for people who wield power, or seek to, or study the ways that others are wielding it. Playbook both reflects the capital’s non-stop conversation and very often drives that conversation.
*Driving the conversation requires one thing above all: Revelation. We must always be telling readers something new, truthful, and relevant. Here is where the case for Anna and Jake was irrefutable. They are a generation younger than POLITICO’s co-founders and their reportorial roots are deep among a rising cohort of people now taking positions of influence throughout the capital. They are respected in both parties, among public leaders and people working behind the scenes of power, as journalists who are unyielding in pursuit of stories. Anna, a North Dakota native and graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN., joined us in 2011. She has become the most authoritative voice covering Washington’s lobbying and advocacy industry. Jake grew up in Connecticut and graduated from George Washington University. Since Jake joined POLITICO in 2009, nothing has happened—no leadership turmoil, no caucus dispute, no ideological or partisan showdown—in the U.S. House during which his reporting did not lead the pack.
*The nine years of Mike’s Playbook reign have been marked by dramatic changes in how news is consumed and how influential people make news and wage arguments.Thanks to the efforts of folks like Lauren Kaplan, Chris Buddie, and Steve Stiles, the new Playbook will also have a sleek, updated look and feel, with an improved reading experience and cool features like the ability to share entire sections on social media. We’ll also be rolling out a new digital home and new social accounts for Playbook in the weeks to come, taking it from the inbox to anywhere else our readers want to consume it. Thanks in particular to Blake, who understands this evolution in media as well as anyone at POLITICO.
Huge credit also goes to Peter Cherukuri, Alexis Williams, and Kara Kearns and their teams for plunging into mountains of planning associated with this transition.
This is an exciting time to be covering Washington, and between this news and more announcements coming soon this is about to be a very exciting time at POLITICO. I want to thank Robert Allbritton for accepting my recommendation on this important decision on Playbook; Jake, Anna and Daniel for embracing this formidable assignment; and Mike for helping illuminate the right path for all of us at POLITICO in so many ways, as journalist, as co-founder, and as friend.