Politico Executive Editor Rick Berke Resigns Over Newsroom Strategy Differences

09/07/2014 06:43 pm ET | Updated Sep 07, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK -- Politico executive editor Rick Berke resigned Sunday, writing in a staff memo that he disagreed with co-founders John Harris and Jim VandeHei over strategy for running the Washington news organization.

“There is no acrimony and no drama -- simply an acceptance by the three of us that the dynamics were just not there for us to function seamlessly,” Berke wrote in a memo obtained by The Huffington Post. Berke did not elaborate on the specific differences with his colleagues.

Berke, who spent 27 years at the New York Times, was a marquee hire for Politico last fall. He joined shortly after VandeHei, who had been executive editor since the site's 2007 launch, became chief executive of both Politico and Capital New York.

In a separate memo, Harris and VandeHei wrote that Berke is “a great journalist and a great guy with a bright future,” but acknowledged he had “different visions” for running Politico’s newsroom.

“This isn't an isolated decision,” they wrote in the memo. “We have very big plans for expanding POLITICO here and elsewhere and need in place a leadership team that shares our vision, ambitions and full faith.”

Read both memos below:

The Staff:

I have resigned as Executive Editor of Politico. While our overarching goals are similar, Jim, John and I have agreed to disagree over the strategy for achieving those goals. There is no acrimony and no drama – simply an acceptance by the three of us that the dynamics were just not there for us to function seamlessly.

I look back with enormous pride over what we have all accomplished, even in a short time. Day by day, hour by hour, we made our stories sharper and more engaging. We raised our ambitions with tough-minded projects such as "Hillary Clinton's Shadow Campaign'' and "The Obama Paradox,'' and by leveraging our policy reporters across federal agencies, we produced high-impact pieces like our examination of Obama's use of executive authority. We formed a polling partnership that enabled Politico to analyze more deeply the issues that drive the most competitive House and Senate races. We added more polish, graphics and ambition to our video operation. We created our first annual Politico Journalism Institute this summer, which was a huge success and a promising start at encouraging diversity in newsrooms.

It is difficult to express how much admiration I have for you as journalists and colleagues. I was inspired every day by your competitive drive, vast knowledge, creative ideas and relentlessness to dig deeper and reach higher. And I could not be more impressed with the journalistic force that John, Jim and Robert Allbritton have created. I saw a clear path to help them take Politico to the next level, but as time went on, it became clear that our strategies were diverging. I will root for them and for all of you.

Rick

As you all know by now, Rick Berke is stepping down as executive editor.

Rick is a great journalist and a great guy with a bright future. Like he said in his note, we simply had different visions for running the POLITICO newsroom. We wish him luck and are truly grateful for the enthusiasm he brought to the job.

Rick had achievements at POLITICO that will endure and we will build upon, including his passionate advocacy of an institute for young journalists aimed at promoting diversity in our profession. For all his gifts, we were in agreement that a vibrant and growing publication must have a leadership team that is fully in sync on its mission and how to achieve it.

This isn't an isolated decision. We have very big plans for expanding POLITICO here and elsewhere and need in place a leadership team that shares our vision, ambitions and full faith.

It is no secret some cool changes are coming to the newsroom, culminating with a sharper focus on owning our core areas of interest: Congress, policy, politics and the White House. You should expect some big new hires, too.

We will not announce a replacement until we put the finishing touches on our new digital strategy. Our plan is to arrange the newsroom leadership differently to accommodate the expansion and digital improvements you will soon see.

Bill Nichols will manage things in the interim. Harris and Danielle will be intimately involved, too, of course. We are very grateful to Marty, Laura, Gregg and other top editors who have stepped up of late to keep the flow of great stories gushing.

In short order, we are confident you will find our plans are both electrifying and wise. We continue to dominate our space despite the toughest competitive environment we have ever faced. From Day One –- for nearly eight years now –- we have been talking about the imperative for constant reinvention. So we’ll soon will be unveiling exciting changes that will keep us at the top of our game, and in command of our market.

Broadly speaking, we want our editors to have a very crisp sense of how we intend to dominate our areas of emphasis and have more power and tools to carry this out. We want our reporters to know with precision their mission in owning their beats, and that they will have more help in punching through online, in print and elsewhere. And we want our readers to know that the great work they have been getting from us will be even better going forward.

Growth and change are thrilling –- and unnerving. But if we push ourselves to think ambitiously about our journalism, and about new ways we can make our readers smarter and more productive, we will pull off something very special and important together.

Meantime, keep doing what you do uniquely well and thanks for all your time, support and effort.

Jim and John

This reporter worked at Politico from Nov. 2007 to March 2010.

CONVERSATIONS