Politico's Getting Serious About Long-Form Journalism

Politico continues to expand into long-form journalism.
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Politico announced Monday that Jason Zengerle, a contributing editor at GQ and New York magazine, is joining the publication as a senior staff writer, and Washington magazine's Denise Kersten Wells will come aboard as a senior editor.

In addition, Politico star reporter Glenn Thrush will join the relaunched Politico magazine as a senior staff writer.

These latest moves signal how serious Politico is about ramping up long-form journalism at the Beltway publication.

Long-form has never been a part of Politico's DNA. Since its 2007 launch, Politico excelled in breaking news and quickly producing analytical takes in an effort to "drive the conversation," as its editors say. During my days at Politico, the emphasis was clearly on churning out 400-word blog posts than spending weeks crafting a 4,000-word feature. But while Politico can be expected to continue competing hard for politics and policy scoops, its editors now hope to add another weapon to the arsenal: high-impact, magazine-style reporting.

Politico, which found success with its e-books during the 2012 race, hired Foreign Policy editor-in-chief Susan Glasser to boost long-form journalism through a relaunched Politico magazine. Glasser quickly brought over her number two, Blake Hounshell to serve as deputy editor, and Politico recently announced that Vanity Fair's Todd Purdum was joining as a senior writer.

In a memo, Politico editor-in-chief John Harris said that Glasser and Hounshell "are making terrific progress in their new project to expand Politico's reach into ambitious enterprise journalism" and that "there will be many more announcements before they get fully launched in the fall."

The flip side of Monday's good news at Politico is that managing editor Craig Gordon is heading to Bloomberg News as deputy managing editor.

Two memos from Harris below:


Susan and Blake are making terrific progress in their new project to expand POLITICO's reach into ambitious enterprise journalism. There will be many more announcements before they get fully launched in the fall.

But today we are thrilled to announce three big-impact moves.

First, two exciting new hires: Jason Zengerle will join POLITICO as a senior staff writer, and Denise Kersten Wells as a senior editor. Jason and Denise come with experience in the first ranks of long form magazine journalism and big aspirations for the reporting and writing that the team will do together. More on both of them in a moment.

One of the fantastic things about Susan and Blake's new project is the opportunity it will afford the talented people already within our newsroom to stretch new journalistic muscles.

Our first example of this will be Glenn Thrush, one of our most brilliant reporters and writers, who will join the new magazine-style venture as a senior staff writer. This move is a natural for Glenn, whose greatest strength may be his ability to understand the ways that human character animates Washington and its large political and policy debates. Glenn is as gifted as any writer I have known at bringing this to life in vivid ways, and we are extremely enthusiastic about his new assignment.

Jason is currently a contributing editor at New York Magazine andGQ, where he's carved out a place as a political profile writer of the first rank, producing memorable portraits of everyone from Mark Sanford on the comeback trail to the likes of Eric Cantor and Peter Beinart. A sharp writer with a reporter's determination to keep digging away at the story Jason also spent a dozen years at the New Republic after graduating from Swarthmore College. His work has also appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications; and it has been anthologized in several books, including The Best American Political Writing, The Best American Medical Writing, andNext Wave: America¹s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists. He lives with his wife, son, and daughter in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Denise has had a similarly stellar career, coming most recently from Washingtonian Magazine, where she was a senior editor in charge of the feature well and the front-of-the-book "IQ" section and spent the last several years helping with an ambitious revamp of the publication. The stories she's edited have won numerous awards‹including the Livingston Award for National Reporting and the Excellence in Writing award from the City and Regional Magazine Association‹and have been anthologized in Best American Sports Writing, Best Food Writing, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and an adjunct professor there. She lives in DC with her husband and their three-year-old daughter.

Jason and Denise both start September 3. Please join us in welcoming them to the magazine's team ‹ and in celebrating Glenn's new role. More news on the who, the what, and the when coming soon.


Subject: A change for Craig Gordon

As many of you know, Craig Gordon in recent days told us that he is leaving POLITICO to take a job as deputy managing editor of Bloomberg News, where he will serve as the number-three person in Bloomberg's large bureau here, with an emphasis on running daily news operations.

This announcement is the essence of bittersweet news.... Craig has been with POLITICO since early 2009 and has been a critical figure in our steady growth in size and editorial quality since then. At the personal level, he has become a good friend. But after hearing Craig describe his professional ambitions and interests it is clear that this job is a good move for him, and reason to celebrate both his strong run at Politico and this new opportunity at a respected news organization that is quite different from us in size, audience, and editorial mission.

Jim, Bill, Danielle and I are pleased for Craig and hope the entire newsroom joins us in wishing him well.

Even those of you who have not worked directly with Craig are in his debt. No one approaches his job with more dedication and commitment to quality--or willingness to work the long hours to get things right. These qualities have helped steer our publication through many big moments. One hazard for an editor as talented as Craig is that growing responsibilities encroach upon his greatest gift--massaging raw copy. When words and craftsmanship matter, Craig is among the best line editors I have encountered over 30 years in the business.

One testament to Craig's success here is his role in building an editing team full of people with outsized talents and readiness to lead.

We are using Craig's departure as occasion to think broadly about Politico's ambitions and the leadership team that will achieve them. I am looking forward to wide-ranging conversations with people here about their own ambitions and how best to use this moment of opportunity. Particularly with many people on richly earned vacations, these conversations will take a few weeks.

In the near-term, Rachel Smolkin will take over Craig's duties of "running the day" to make sure we do not lose a beat for even a moment. Whenever Rachel has taken the wheel, including over an extended stretch earlier this summer, she has hugely impressed people up and down the newsroom with her superb judgment and ability to keep the site sparkling. We are in good and responsible hands.

For now, let's all give Craig our thanks both for his contribution to Politico and the untold quantities of gum we have consumed from his desk. We invited him to stay as long as he wishes. In order to give himself a rest before the new gig he indicated he'll be wrapping up here early this week.


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