The absolute worst thing I ever did—this was sort of in that way of taking a small bite at a larger story—was when presidential candidate John Edwards was scheduled to make a big announcement in spring 2007, and an hour before I wrote a blog post based on a tip from an inside source saying Edwards would announce he was suspending his campaign, possibly even announce he was dropping out, because his wife’s cancer had recurred. Edwards announced he was staying in the race.
It was such a terrible moment. Actually, a little bracket to that, I’ve always hated working from home. At that point I didn’t have an office in Brooklyn and some days I was working from home and I did feel that my judgment was worse if I wasn’t sitting at a desk surrounded by other reporters. Because it was definitely bad judgment. I had one very good source, a genuine Edwards insider whom Edwards had told—the details are little fuzzy—I think Edwards had told that morning that he was going to drop out. And either he changed his mind or had never meant it, or who knows. This guy was a totally legit source, but it was only one source. I misread the signals I was getting from the campaign where basically friendly people were saying, “Don’t write this, we can’t say anything but don’t write this.”
Yeah, it was just one source. I sort of wrote it as, “one source told me this,” I didn’t frame it differently but I misunderstood the impact it was going to have. I didn’t have the right level of confidence for that scale of story. But all you can do is be, like, obviously I was wrong and here’s why and here’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t—was it a mortal sin?—I hadn’t made it up. It was a real source. My editors knew who the source was. The guy had either been confused or misled. The guy talked to Edwards before the event and got the wrong impression. It was a terrible moment.
In 2007, Politico reporters on the campaign trail were like the scrappy upstarts, which was fun. I was just able, for a while, to move so much faster. I could sit at a press conference, type what a politician said in my blog, and it’d be online twenty minutes before anyone else because they had editorial processes that weren’t fast enough for the Internet. This is no longer true. This stopped being true a couple years ago. Now Twitter is so much faster, the fact that my blog takes a minute and a half to propagate means it’s ancient and no longer a place that you go for that. A lot of people went to Politico because they were so hungry for information and we were literally the first place to have it. And that’s kind of exciting for a while. But ultimately, being the guy who types fastest isn’t that rewarding or interesting. So I’m happy enough to be freed of that. There was this sort of compression of the news cycle that is now very familiar, but I think we delivered that to national politics.
Now blogs feel so ancient and creaky. I think if you have a blog and an audience you can maybe hold that space you’re in and as that audience ages just age with it. But Twitter has displaced blogs as the place where you see something new for the first time. So the blog has lost a bit of its rhythm and centrality. Now you have this new place for one-liners. I do a lot fewer blog items of the form, hey, look at this cool thing, because people are seeing that cool thing on Twitter. The blog is now a vehicle [laughs] for long, analytical stuff. And for news breaks, certainly. It’s not the place where you conduct the central political conversation which I think I did with some success in ’08.