Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Meet Maureen Dowd’s Favorite Writer: Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall

josh-marshallToday’s life lesson: Procrastination does pay off!

A few weeks ago I sat down with Josh Marshall, the journalist/entrepreneur behind Talking Points Memo, and had a great chat about news, new media and the business of running a self-funded Web site. But my notes and video have sat on my hard drive since then, for no other reason than I never got around to publishing them.

Thank you, Maureen Dowd, for the kick in the pants I needed: Over the weekend, the New York Times (NYT) columnist has given Marshall a huge, if unintended, endorsement by borrowing his work and then getting caught.

After an initial attempt by Dowd to explain away the similarity between her work and his, the Times is now running a correction on Dowd’s Sunday column, noting that she “failed to attribute a paragraph” to Marshall.

You’ll read plenty more about this on the Web over the next few days, if you’re inclined. But it would be a shame if that’s the only thing you know about Marshall’s site, which is an interesting hybrid of politically focused reporting, commentary, and aggregation/blogging.

And I do mean a mix: If you just glimpse quickly at his site, you might think it’s the same grouping of links and headlines that you can find anywhere else on the Web. But Marshall was a real reporter prior to starting the site and his 12-person staff does real reporting. Its best work, to date, was uncovering the Bush administration’s U.S. Attorneys scandal in 2007, which led to prestigious Polk Award in 2008.

Just as interesting: It’s a profitable business that has never taken outside investment and until recently, has made almost all of its money by relying on ad networks. The most effective ad network, says Marshall: Google’s AdSense. See! Google (GOOG) really does support content!

More recently, Marshall has hired Yahoo (YHOO) vet Diane Rinaldo to serve as the company’s first real ad rep, trying to translate the site’s one million (give or take) monthly unique readers into more significant revenue. That’s alleged to be a real challenge since advertisers are supposedly loath to touch political content. But then again, start-up blogs aren’t supposed to do real journalism–or act as unattributed contributors to the country’s most prestigious newspaper.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald