Capital New York co-founders leave Politico

Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran, who founded the politics, culture and media site Capital New York in 2010 before selling it to Politico in 2013, are leaving the company.

The departures were announced in a memo to staff from Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris, who also said Politico's statewide operations would be consolidated at Politico headquarters in Rosslyn. Launched in 2015, Politico States has established a presence in states across America, including Florida, New Jersey and California but is headquartered in New York.

Going forward, that will change, Harris wrote.

"As part of this integration, the production desk will move to Rosslyn, and the immensely skilled colleagues on our New York production team will be invited to apply for several open positions," Harris said. "Our aim is to be more strategic about how we use our resources to maximize the impact of our journalism."

Joseph Schatz, an editor at Politico Pro, will take editorial leadership of Politico States over from McGeveran and Benson, according to Harris. Joining him will be Gillian Reagan, who followed McGeveran to Capital New York from The New York Observer.

Here's Harris' memo:

Team,

Four years ago, POLITICO launched an effort to carry our journalism and our business beyond Washington into the states. We regard the states as an essential element of our global strategy of growing the company and broadening the reach and impact of our journalism.

The first big move in our states strategy was the decision to buy a small, scrappy and brilliantly creative publication called Capital New York in 2013. At the time, it made sense to use the New York office as an incubator for the experiment with Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran at the helm. Josh and Tom were the perfect people to lead our states enterprise in its start-up phase. They have recruited some of the best journalists in the country, a roster of current and future leaders of POLITICO. They have worked with business colleagues to steadily grow states revenue, including 82 percent year-over-year growth in 2016, and increase our footprint into additional states.

At the same time, POLITICO continued growing in Washington and launched our partnership with Axel Springer to start POLITICO Europe, which has a presence in Brussels, London, Berlin, and Paris. We’ve grown from just under 50 employees to nearly 500 over the past decade. We enter our second decade with an ambitious new business and editorial team at the helm. Our mission is to constantly look for ways to get smarter, more efficient, and more ambitious as a company, delivering even more indispensable journalism and products to a growing audience at home and abroad.

It is in this context that we believe the right long-term path for our states coverage is to move beyond start-up phase and to integrate fully into the larger POLITICO editorial family. A states’ hub in New York, physically and organizationally separated from our headquarters in Rosslyn, has begun to present challenges that would become more difficult as our states expansion continues.

The New York newsroom—the largest part of a states’ enterprise that also has editorial talent in five other states—will remain in place as the most important engine of our daily news operation. At the same time, I have asked Joe Schatz, one of our most skilled and ambitious editors, to become editorial leader of states.

Josh and Tom have been involved closely in these discussions, and this leadership transition reflects their recommendation to me. We are grateful for the support they have offered. They both will continue to assist with this integration before ultimately passing the baton to Joe. Simply put, I have never encountered two leaders more committed to their people, or who communicate with more passion about why journalism matters. Everything we do in states going forward will build on what they created.

Joe will begin working immediately with Reid Pillifant and Gillian Reagan to set the new strategy in motion.

We have three primary aims in seeking this integration:

1. We want our states journalism to have more impact with a larger audience through a closer relationship between our reporters and editors in the states and the powerful POLITICO platform in Rosslyn. Editor Carrie Budoff Brown is committed to this goal and is organizing her leadership team to achieve it. The same is true of our media coverage, which because much of it is based out of New York, is closely allied with the states operation.

2. We want POLITICO’s state efforts to be closely coordinated, with the aim of providing more value to our premium policy subscribers under POLITICO Pro. Marty Kady has embarked on a plan to place policy reporters in the states—starting with health care and energy—with a regional focus across several states. Both ideas have a better chance of working in concert than separately.

What’s more, the long-term strategy of the company is based on building editorial bridges, with news and insights on policy that connects Europe and the United States, or state capitals and Washington, or state capitals with each other. What connects all our policy reporters is the imperative of impact—driving the conversation with journalism that matters—and for our most sophisticated policy subscribers the conversations they care about cross multiple geographic boundaries. Our Pro brand must stand for the same thing — setting the policy agenda by being more aggressive on news, more sophisticated in analysis—in Brussels, in Tallahassee, or in Washington.

This is also true for the POLITICO Playbook franchise, which enjoyed its most successful year to date with outposts in Washington, six states, and across the pond in Brussels. We want to further empower state Playbook authors by leveraging POLITICO.com and our national editing team in Rosslyn, building out events, and increasing their impact. And, ultimately, we want to expand the Playbook franchise.

Long-term, this pointed toward more integration at the leadership level in Washington.

3. We want that editorial and business leaders of POLITICO to be operating off common assumptions, speaking a common language, working toward common purpose. When we all got together for the POLITICO Town Hall in November, we discussed opportunities for our states operation. This integration is one of those opportunities. I said it then, and will say it again—no one is better positioned than POLITICO for this moment: A new administration transitioning into power, an entire reorientation of the Washington landscape, and a legislative engine that is primed to start churning again. We’re the most important politics and policy news organization in Washington, and we have editorial assets in the most important state capitals around the country. This really is an extraordinary time and we’re uniquely well-positioned to take advantage of it.

A word why we chose Joe to take on this assignment. Joe, a Cornell graduate, was one of our early Pro editors, leading the tax team, when he first came to POLITICO in 2011 after an award-winning tenure at Congressional Quarterly. He left for a time to go on a family and professional adventure in Burma, and since returning in 2015 he’s done brilliant work as editor of our daily Europe brief. He’s been indispensable in helping frame the company’s choices on states. He will have his own style and priorities in leading states, but in all essential respects he shares the values of Josh and Tom. These include unshakeable integrity and sense of fairness, a full commitment to POLITICO and its ambitions, a fierce commitment to creating a winning newsroom and winning business, and a deep conviction about the role of journalists in our communities and the world.

For the time being, during this critical phase in the states enterprise, Joe will report directly to me, with strong dotted lines to Carrie Budoff Brown and Marty Kady.

As part of this integration, the production desk will move to Rosslyn, and the immensely skilled colleagues on our New York production team will be invited to apply for several open positions. Our aim is to be more strategic about how we use our resources to maximize the impact of our journalism.

Members of our editorial leadership will be speaking with all of you today in smaller groups, and Marty and I will be visiting state offices next week. Later this month, we’ll bringing all the Playbook writers into Rosslyn. We’re eager to discuss your questions, your concerns and your insights on taking POLITICO’s state coverage forward.

John

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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