Political Junkie Heaven
April 2008

by Ron Steinman

Verbiage should be the theme of the current campaign for president. Not the horse race. Not the gotcha moments. Not anything else anyone can name. Verbiage is the only word that will do. Probably more words – in print and voice -- about politics are floating around than ever before. We read newspapers, though less each day. We probably have millions of Web sites that carry news. Some of these are part of newspapers. Others come from TV. Of course, many are independent, and these include the legions of bloggers, many who only deal in opinion. Verbiage.

To help us navigate these cluttered paths, aggregators are now in vogue. You know them well. They help you band together the various sites that provide the information you want to have without you venturing into the morass of the Internet and searching daily and repeatedly for everything you want to read. It means you the reader have to set the parameters of what you want to know. What you read will arrive on your desktop as if by magic and all you have to do is open the RSS and read what you want when you want. Once you do that, the rest is easy. But that is not necessarily the case. It assumes you know what you are doing, that you know where to go for the news or information that will satisfy your curiosity and satiate your thirst. Probably for some, this creating his or her list of readable sites is pleasurable. For me it is not. Call me lazy. I accept the appellation. I have no desire to create my own aggregation of sites, then once I have it, to sift it for pertinent information.

If I did that I would have to hold back the mountains of words that threaten to overwhelm not only me but also everyone I know. I come back to verbiage, the curse of the Internet. The thought is daunting. Then I discovered Politico and Mike Allen's Politico Playbook Daily Update at http://www.politico.com/. I signed up and started receiving an e-mail every morning. My life became instantly better. The site is proving to be an easy, fruitful way to start my day. After a week of reading the site I grew confident that my political fix was in the hands of someone I trust. Some may say, at the expense of repeating my theme, that having Politico do all the work takes the fun out of creating my own aggregation of sites in which I am interested, rather than depending on someone else's choice. I beg to differ.

On any given morning, these are some of the sites Mike Allen and his crew visit for me. I assume it must be a crew of sorts to read and assimilate all that verbiage. I can expect material from AP, USA Today, Forbes.com, Washington Post, ABC News, Financial Times, The Economist, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Television, New York Times, Times of London, The London Telegraph, New York Post, Time magazine, Newsweek, local newspapers and TV covering an upcoming primary, and, of course, Politico's own extensive network of reporters.

Wait. There is more, including stories from Us Magazine, "The Daily Show," The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Yahoo and often papers from the states having a primary. Importantly, when there are dueling TV spots from the candidates about the same subject, you will see the full script of each ad to help you make a decision about which spot to believe, because that is important. Often when watching a political ad on TV, it is impossible to make a judgment from what you see in 30 seconds or less. The spot, if effective, is largely visceral, but seeing the words, the script, makes it come alive and adds to its meaning.

The site is ecumenical. It covers politics from everywhere, no matter the source. News operations get equal treatment and equal time, depending on the story or an element of a story. The links are there so if I want to see more about a particular story, I can go to the source in an instant to satisfy my curiosity.

Politico, however, does even more than that. At times it is very homey, maybe too inside, though it hardly matters to me because I am no longer on the bus. Mike Allen sends birthday wishes, and even wedding and birth announcements about and to reporters and editors seemingly everywhere.

Despite the heavy politics, that is not all Politico covers. The e-mail opens with the top story of the day, whether from Iraq, perhaps a natural disaster, or something that happened overnight that we should know about. Sometimes the site ends with some oddball bit of information, and often sports news, not a bad idea for someone in a hurry, probably the profile of many of Politico's readers. But Mike, if I can call you that, giving the results of "American Idol" may be going a bit too far. That's something I can do without, thank you.

When the e-mail ends, Mike Allen invites you to move to the main site of Politico for more details on any one of the many stories you just read. If your interest continues high and your day is slow, it's not a bad idea.

© Ron Steinman

Ron Steinman, Executive Editor of The Digital Journalist, is an award-winning producer of television news and documentaries. He was NBC's bureau chief in Saigon during the Vietnam War. He is also an author and freelance documentarian through his company, Douglas/Steinman Productions. Buy Ron Steinman's book: Inside Television's First War.