I’ll be honest: I didn’t know much about The Politico before last night. I always thought that the paper was a DC equivalent of The Hill or Roll Call, but I found out during the JHU Communication Roundtable that I was wrong. In less than a year, the newspaper has managed to thrive in a realm of niche journalism focusing on national politics. The Politico successfully does what so many newspapers are trying to do: fuse together old school journalism with new school journalism. What makes The Politico different, however, is that it’s been built from the ground up with these founding principles.

Continuing Gillmor’s reading from last week, the author discusses professional journalists who in some way succumb to the changing norms of journalism…The Politico is a perfect example of this. Right here in our own backyard, a few journalists from prominent news institutions ranging from The Wall Street Journal to The Washington Post got together in January of 2007 to create a web based news service for consumers of political news. In doing so, they have broken down typical journalistic molds to create a new platform for political news consumption. As executive editor Jim VandeHai said yesterday, it was not an idea that was years in the making but rather something that came to a head given the state of current journalism.

What is The Politico trying to accomplish? Their long mission statement includes:

“Reading a story should be just as interesting as talking with the reporter over a sandwich or a beer. It’s a curiosity of journalism that this often isn’t true. The traditional newspaper story is written with austere, voice-of-God detachment. These newspaper conventions tend to muffle personality, humor, accumulated insight — all the things readers hunger for as they try to make sense of the news and understand what politicians are really like. Whenever we can, we’ll push against these limits. In the process, we’ll share with readers a lot more of what we know instead of leaving it in our notebooks.”

At last night’s roundtable, Jim VandeHei expressed that The Politico is based on the mentality that “we live in an entrepreneurial age, not an institutional one.” The Politico prides themselves on this notion, and encourages their readers to participate in the dialogue. The paper caters to a community of consumers that is already interested in politics. They take news from various sources, and also have their own set of reporters to go out there and find out what’s happening. Above all else, they allow and encourage readers of their website to contribute to the conversation through comments and distribution. Multimedia, open forums, and live chats are among the tools used by The Politico to keep their readers interested and engaged in the world of politics. Their partnerships with TV news have allowed them to get their name on television and cooperate with different forms of media. The founders of The Politico have used their experiences at other publications to create a new kind of political newspaper–one that takes the successes from large newspapers, while also taking the desirable qualities of grassroots journalism and online blogging.

I can’t help but wonder what Dan Gillmor would think of what these journalists have done at The Politico. Gillmor admits that even in the world of blogging and citizen journalists, he still reads The New York Times and other Big Media as so many of us do. So is The Politico successful in meeting a common ground for both sides of the spectrum–old fashioned newspapers on one side, and bloggers on the other? I’d have to say so.

National news sources are using The Politico–whether out of curiosity for what The Politico is doing, or actually using the information from the website in their own newspapers. USA Today, the most circulated newspaper in America, uses politico.com on their own website.

Given all this information, one thing is for sure: ” If The Politico succeeds, it could signal that the Web has become a more plausible alternative for mainstream journalists.” (NYT, 1.8.07) I think Gillmor would agree.