Friday, December 21, 2012

Pulling the Plug on Politico's Arena


Well I gotta say I was shocked when I received the email (see below) authored by Jon Harris and Jim VandeHei telling me that now "was a good time to put the Arena feature to rest." After all, Politico Arena contributor's like myself do not get compensated (at least I didn't) and Arena was popular enough this election season alone to account for "12 million page views" according to Politico.

So why kill it? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Politico "will be discussing different ways that outside opinion journalism can fit creatively in a site that remains, in terms of the work of our own editors and reporters, steadfastly committed to ideological neutrality." But wasn't the purpose of the Arena to allow for the exchange of opinion and ideas? Perhaps we'll never know why Politico decided to go in this direction but I suspect at some point we'll figure it out. I hope something comparable fills the void or that Politico will rethink their decision.

Here is the unedited email:

A Note to Arena Contributors –

We began the Arena feature – conceived to be a kind of rolling, real-time op-ed page – just over four years ago, in the final two months of the 2008 campaign.

Over these four years Arena has hosted – thanks to the intelligence and good will of contributors – thousands of constructive, serious, provocative and civil debates on issues facing Washington and the nation. Your submissions often made news--picked up  by reporters and columnists at other publications.

Arena's launch reflected a spirit of innovation at our young publication – still only six years old. That spirit, which continues to guide us, pushes us to a certain healthy restlessness. As we contemplated the publication's future in the wake of the recent election, POLITICO editors decided it is time to think more about the role of outside opinion on our site and how to present it to maximum impact. In that light, it seemed to us that now was a good time to put the Arena feature to rest.

We are proud of its content – and the 12 million page views Arena generated in just this last presidential campaign – and want to push forward with something new before the feature becomes familiar and loses any edge.

In the months ahead, our editors, led by POLITICO Editor-at-Large Bill Nichols, will be discussing different ways that outside opinion journalism can fit creatively in a site that remains, in terms of the work of our own editors and reporters, steadfastly committed to ideological neutrality.

In addition to the thanks we give to all you as contributors, we'd like to thank the three terrifically smart and conscientious people who have served as Arena moderators these past four years – Fred Barbash, David Mark, and Erika Lovley.

We look forward to enlisting you in more conversations and debates about issues of the day on POLITICO in our post-Arena future.

With gratitude,

John Harris
Jim VandeHei

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