Talking Points Memo founder and editor Joshua Marshall got to enjoy the Stephen Colbert treatment last night, where he faced the ultimate question: "If you really are one of the world's pre-eminent bloggers, why aren't you wearing a bathrobe?" AND WHY ISN'T HE? Marshall responded that they'd "upped their game," and discussed how TPM has an actual staff, an actual office, with an eye toward daily news coverage. Marshall also gave great praise to the TPM audience, who form what he called "the first line of surveillance" -- a beast with a million and a half eyes, committed to bringing stories and insights to TPM's roster of editors and reporters.
"That's a fantastic business model," Colbert said, "That's like a grocery store where you bring them your food, they look at it and say, 'Yeah, that's food, give me money." I am not sure that all the pronouns in that sentence track, but you get the idea: an army of hunter-gatherers laying their spoils at TPM's doorstep, with TPM providing confirmation, curation, and additional insight. It's agrarian! Or, as Marshall, puts it, a "hybrid of collaborative and traditional reporting."
But beyond the unique relationship the TPM enjoys with their audience, Marshall got to talk about the way their website has really distinguished themselves -- an overarching, institutional commitment to following a story fully along its continuum. The example cited -- the U.S. Attorney firings -- is an excellent one: a standard-setting commitment and intensity for an online news site. "We keep asking questions until there are no more questions to be answered," Marshall said.
On the decline of print media, Marshall refused to "pronounce any death sentences," offering his prediction that many of today's traditional news organs would eventually "reinvent themselves as websites." Of course, he also predicted, jokingly, that TPM would eventually "beat [the New York Times] down." In Colbertian terms, the Times is on Marshall's "on notice" board, but not yet on the "dead to me" list.