Co-owner Larry Ceisler is based in Philadelphia and active in Democratic circles statewide. He was recruited by Urban to keep ownership bipartisan.
“For me, I just like the fact people read it, people like it,” Ceisler said. “It is quoted in national publications. That’s a credit to Keegan and the people who worked before him.”
Ceisler said he gets calls from people who want to be in the sites “Ups and Downs” feature—or are unhappy once they are. The comments, he says, are steered directly to Gibson.
“If we can be used as a jumping off point to stimulate discussion and conversation, we’ve done our job,” he said. “We’re a site people go for this type of news, whether they be elected officials, natural gas people, reporters and other people in the media.”
In addition to his editorial responsibilities, Gibson also sells ads for the site, and his compensation is tied in part to the site’s revenue as well. That arrangement does not affect his approach to coverage, he said. Among the site’s current advertisers are Urban and Ceisler’s own firms, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association, and conservative activist Scott Wagner.
“Thankfully, the owners of the site have consistently and totally respected a firewall between what they do and I do,” Gibson said. “I talk to them every week, couple weeks. I give them updates on ad revenue and traffic.”
In some ways, any conflicts of interest may be prospective. The site has not yet made a profit, Urban said. He is hopeful the reported stories and credibility of the site will lead to more revenue in the future.
“People come to site to read unbiased stories,” Urban said. “Our goal for the next several years is to continue to grow the brand. We want to be the last man standing, when there are no reporters in Washington and nobody left in Harrisburg covering politics.”
That’s not an especially inspiring vision for journalism—and hopefully, that day will never come. The need for unaffiliated, broadly focused political reporting and larger narratives is as strong as ever, and that’s something PoliticsPA is not built to fully engage.
But PoliticsPA is here and growing, and that’s a good thing. It’s a key stop for reporters, and its focused, quick-hit features and ability to drive a niche is something other outlets media can learn from.
“It is one of the main places you can go for political news,” said Alex Roarty, who managed the site before Gibson and now covers politics for National Journal. “It provides things nobody else does.”