Back in late 2021, in the heady times following Politico’s $1 billion sale to Axel Springer, the once feisty and plucky, now establishment-ish media company’s leadership team started searching for a new executive editor to oversee its core coverage of American politics—the quadrumvirate of campaigns, Capitol Hill, the courts and the White House. After all, this had been Politico’s DNA in the earliest John Harris–Jim VandeHei–Mike Allen years, before the business mushroomed into a flourishing transatlantic media powerhouse with a highly lucrative policy-focused subscription service, myriad live events, a magazine, local politics coverage, an ill-fated tech news sister brand, and ambitions to establish itself as a leading player from Sacramento to Brussels.
The job, which had been managed skillfully for five years by the Politico lifer Carrie Budoff Brown, was both significant and yet somewhat limited in scope. Politico’s quadrumvirate is instrumental to the company’s reputation—and it’s the main reason why its elite newsroom competes daily for scoops and influence with the Times, WaPo, Axios and so forth—but it has also come to account for a significantly smaller slice of the business. More than half of the company’s revenue comes from PoliticoPro, the policy-focused subscription service, while some 20 percent comes from its Brussels-based European operation, according to sources familiar with the company’s finances.
Nevertheless, Politico’s leadership team—C.E.O. Goli Sheikholeslami, editor-in-chief Matthew Kaminski, and founder-chairman Harris—hired an outside firm to conduct its search, and made overtures to several candidates, including, as I reported last year, the Post’s Phil Rucker, who received a formal offer; his then-colleague Steve Ginsberg, who eventually took over The Athletic’s editorial operations; the Times’s Carolyn Ryan, probably the top newsroom leader-to-be on the market; Ben Smith, in his pre-Semafor days; and Dafna Linzer, a veteran of NBC News who was spending her time between jobs, as so many notable journalists do, on an esteemed academic fellowship.