Politico Hires D.C. Flak to Defend Reporting Errors

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Writing a new chapter in the D.C. political-influence-media industrial complex, Politico is bringing on veteran Republican operative Brad Dayspring as spokesman for the media company.

On one level, this is just standard fare for D.C., where connected individuals slide seamlessly between government, political, lobbying, and media positions.

The choice of Dayspring, though, whose temper is known to have a short fuse, suggests Politico has a much more unconventional vision for the new position. One of his responsibilities will be “defending the brand from attacks.”

“[Brad] is an unapologetic agitator, and we see that as a tremendous asset,” Politico COO Kara Kingsley wrote in a memo to staff announcing the hire.

Just two weeks ago, Politico was roundly criticized for an “exclusive” negative story on GOP candidate Ben Carson that turned out to be untrue, at least as presented by the news site. Politico’s errors were compounded after it made several changes to its story without noting the changes or adding any kind of correction. These were eventually added after further criticism of Politico’s reporting.

It is not unheard of for news organizations to make mistakes in reporting. It is unusual, though, for a news organization to hire a PR flack whose specialty is beating back unflattering stories or pushing attacks on his opposition. Most news organizations don’t aspire to need a staffer permanently assigned to defend its reporting.

Politico, though, isn’t really a traditional news organization. It more resembles the society pages for a very insular and gated community. It even writes up daily birthday greetings to certain pugged-in D.C. personalities, after all. Inclusion in the list is either a badge of honor or shame, depending on how one views the swamp inside the Beltway.

The liberal New Republic neatly summarized Politico‘s status as a gossip-sheet two years ago. Many media personalities were anxious about the impending publication of Mark Leibovich’s This Town: The Way It Works in Suck Up City, an expose of the cozy relationships between the media and politics in D.C. Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei penned a “preview” of the book, which New Republic skewered:

Politico attempts to pass off its column as a neutral, “fun” look at an anticipated Beltway book that’s still under the lockdown of a particularly stringent publisher’s embargo. But Allen and VandeHei don’t do the discretion thing very well, and it’s clear before long that this is their clunky attempt to kneecap a writer whose upcoming revelations may well depict them as the people that they are: obsessive insiders who are obsessed with insiderism. It’s bad flack work—something that exists to irritate and cut off reporters, not to have them adopt it into their own lead-story editorial product.

With Dayspring on board, presumably Allen and VandeHei can take a higher road, above the back-alley cat fights that obsess certain folks in D.C. Better, no doubt, to have Dayspring stalking the twitter feeds of reporters and editors than commit Politico’s article content to such matters.

There is another obvious advantage for Politico in hiring Dayspring, whose has made his career on the Republican side of the ledger. Dayspring has honed his skills as a Republican operative who will zealously attack conservatives. Dayspring’s attacks aren’t limited to particular parts of the conservative movement, either, but are focused on anyone even slightly more conservative than any given Republican lawmaker.

With a strong left-wing bent, Politico’s journalistic “errors” are more likely to attack conservatives or any Republican locked in a tough race with a Democrat. A publication so obsessed about having insider access isn’t going to “rush” a negative hit piece against a Democrat onto its pages.

By hiring Dayspring, it’s almost as if Politico expects to require permanent push-back on attacks of its stories in the year ahead. It knows it will need the “tremendous asset” of on “unapologetic agitator” to cover its journalistic flank.

As for Dayspring, he gets to join in the time-honored tradition of Republican operatives turning in their cleats to assist the mainstream media’s ongoing war on conservatives. The media may still hold most Americans in contempt, but at least Dayspring will get to go to Tammy Haddad’s parties.