NEW YORK, NEW YORK — What began as Josh Marshall’s personal blog during the Florida vote recount of November 2000 has since expanded into a profitable multimedia brand of fast-paced political news coverage. The TalkingPointsMemo.com homepage now acts as a conduit to several different frequently-updated news sites and blogs, a poll tracker, and a video channel. Popular topics for TPM coverage include economic policy, lobbying, health care, campaign trends, and election polls.
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Although it gained rabid readership during the Bush administration for putting the Republican leadership under a microscope, Talking Points Memo’s content consists more of original reporting than of opinion. “TPM is a news site, full stop,” Marshall wrote in an e-mail to CJR. “We’re always very clear with everybody who works here: we’re covering news, surfacing facts. Our core aim is not to advocate, it’s to report.”
The site is perhaps best known for breaking—and doggedly reporting—the 2007 scandal wherein the U.S. Department of Justice under Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez dismissed seven U.S. attorneys for political reasons. Marshall and his colleagues enlisted the help of the site’s readers by posting huge legal documents from the Justice Department and asking them to sift through them and flag items of interest. As CJR contributor David Glenn wrote in a 2007 profile of the site:
Not only were the major dailies slow to pick up on the controversy, but a Capitol Hill staffer says that the House Judiciary Committee itself would have missed the firings’ significance if not for the barrage of reports from Talking Points…. When Alberto Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, and Monica Goodling testified before Congress this spring, they had the reporters in this obscure Flower District building to thank for the honor.
In 2008, TPM became the first online news site to be honored with a Polk Award, which it won in the legal reporting category for its work on that story.
TPM distributes and publicizes its content widely on Facebook and Twitter, and also has a (cashless) content-sharing deal with Gawker, CQ Roll Call, and Business Insider—a reciprocal agreement to trade and reprint a certain number of stories each week. Aside from individual donations and individual investments into TPM Media LLC, most of the site’s funding comes from paid advertising. According to Marshall, direct ad sales have increased by about 650 percent in just the past two years.
In the fall of 2009, Talking Points Memo opened a Washington, D.C. bureau to better cover the capital. The company currently has an overall editorial staff of twelve, with plans to expand those numbers considerably in the next several years, according to Marshall. But, Marshall said, that doesn’t mean they will lose touch with the community of readers that has fueled the site’s growth.
“It’s been one of our top priorities not to lose the intimate connection we have with our readers as we grow,” he wrote. “And by and large I think we’ve been able to do that. The tip e-mail line goes to every full time member of the editorial staff and there’s a big priority placed on every staffer regularly reading them. I read most of them myself every day.”
Talking Points Memo Data
Name: Talking Points Memo
City: New York, N.Y., with a bureau in Washington, D.C.
Principal Staff: Josh Marshall, editor and publisher; David Kurtz, managing editor.
Affiliations: Content sharing agreements with Business Insider, Gawker, and CQ-Roll Call.
CMS: Movable Type, but in the process of building custom virtual CMS.
CJR on Talking Points Memo:
11/05/09: TPM Launches “NewsStream” - Megan Garber
07/23/09: About that Letter… - TPM whiffs on Obama’s FOIA dodge - Clint Hendler
01/19/09: Matt Cooper to TPM - Megan Garber
08/28/08: Left Behind - Hearts aflame, commenters speak fire - Julia Ioffe
09/01/07: The (Josh) Marshall Plan - Break news, connect the dots, stay small - David Glenn
03/15/07: How TalkingPointsMemo Beat the Big Boys on the U.S. Attorney Story - Can a mixture of “Web reporting” and old-fashioned investigative work be the wave of the future for journalism? - Paul McLeary