January 15, 2014

On Wednesday, editors from Politico are expected to meet with journalists from The Washington Post to discuss how the latter is covering the work of the former.

On Tuesday, Michael Calderone reported in The Huffington Post that the meeting would take place to talk about Erik Wemple’s reporting on Mike Allen. Allen writes the daily Playbook email for Politico and is the publication’s chief White House correspondent.

The Politico higher-ups are scheduled to sit down with both editorial page editor Fred Hiatt and media critic Erik Wemple, who has aggressively covered Allen and recently suggested the Politico star writer rewards Playbook advertisers with favorable coverage. After digging through Playbook’s archives, Wemple concluded in November that “the special interests that pay for slots in the newsletter get adoring coverage elsewhere in the playing field of Playbook.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with what’s led to this meeting today, or you just want to catch up, here’s a brief timeline:

Nov. 20, 2013: Wemple writes “Politico’s Mike Allen, native advertising pioneer,” and challenges readers to differentiate between Playbook posts about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and paid ads from the chamber itself. The game is followed by a lengthy analysis of what’s in Allen’s Playbook.

A review of “Playbook” archives shows that the special interests that pay for slots in the newsletter get adoring coverage elsewhere in the playing field of “Playbook.” The pattern is a bit difficult to suss out if you glance at “Playbook” each day for a shot of news and gossip. When searching for references to advertisers in “Playbook,” however, it is unmistakable.

Dec. 3, 2013: In an appearance on WNYC, Politico CEO Jim VandeHei calls Wemple’s story “nonsense.”

Dec. 20, 2013: Wemple writes “Politico’s Mike Allen avoids addressing questions about advertisers,” noting that Allen wouldn’t answer e-mails or requests for comment.

So we caught up with Allen following Thursday’s “Playbook” breakfast at the Newseum. When asked how he felt about the piece, Allen said, “I’m hustling out of here” to catch a flight. As he made his way toward the building’s elevators, we pressed for just a short comment. Allen repeated his need to get to that flight, and then he was gone.

Jan. 14 HuffPost’s Calderone writes about the upcoming meeting between the Post and Politico, with a response from Allen about the whole thing.

“Erik’s posts about Playbook are false and insulting,” Allen wrote. “I haven’t responded because his obsessive, anti-Playbook agenda has been obvious for some time.

“I have based my career on honesty and trust,” Allen continued. “Over the past seven years, there have been more than 8 million words of Playbooks, including hundreds of announcements from every group under the sun. You could cherry-pick items to make any case you wanted: that I’m a conservative hack, or a liberal tool, or a bad writer or a good guy. I write Playbook 365 days a year because I enjoy it, and greatly respect the readership it has attracted. I make my decisions based on a single consideration: whether the item would serve the audience.”

Jan. 14: Wemple prepares for the meeting with a piece about Mike Allen’s “charity to Fox News.”

Jan. 14: HuffPost’s Jack Mirkinson comes back with more.

In an Tuesday night email to Calderone, Wemple responded: “Good job getting a response from Mike about my story. It’s more than I got through many weeks of effort and even a personal encounter. From this point forward, perhaps I’ll work through you.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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