NEW YORK –- A few months ago, New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson said in an interview that she looks at Politico each day, and specifically, reads “Mike Allen’s email in the morning.”
Allen's Playbook is big part of Politico's oft-stated goal to "win the morning" and lead the insider political conversation at the start of each day. But soon, Abramson will also receive a breakfast-time dispatch from the Times' Carl Hulse, whom she tasked Wednesday with overseeing “an early morning news tip sheet that sets up the Washington day for our readers.”
News of the upcoming tipsheet battle came amid a broader Beltway shake-up. Times political editor Carolyn Ryan was named Washington bureau chief, with David Leonhardt leaving that perch to oversee a data-journalism project to rival Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.
In a staff email, Abramson wrote that the Times morning tipsheet will "harvest the best tweets of bureau reporters and aggregate other elements from the Washington news report." And she described Hulse, who just became the paper's chief Washington correspondent, as knowing "every cranny of the Capitol and the inside dope about Congress and the White House.”
That "inside dope" is also what Allen -- Politico's chief White House correspondent -- is expected to provide in the morning. As the Times’ Mark Leibovich once wrote, Allen's Playbook has become "the principal early-morning document for an elite set of political and news-media thrivers and strivers.”
The Times didn’t mention Playbook in Wednesday's announcement, and over email, Hulse described his project in ways that suggest it'll differ from Allen's email, which serves as a compendium of personal analysis, aggregated stories, reporter tweets, anonymous takes from Republican and Democratic operatives, and of course, birthdays of Beltway notables.
Hulse said the new Washington tipsheet would be somewhat similar to New York Today, a feature on the Times Metro section, and suggested it wouldn't be heavy on aggregation of outside sources. “It will be more about what we are doing and seeing at the NYT and less about what others are reporting,” Hulse said, adding that it will also showcase analysis from Leonhardt’s new venture.
“I think our still-developing approach will be to try to put a real NYT stamp on things through a combination of reporting and analysis and insights from the experts and beat reporters in the bureau,” Hulse said.
One of the Times' main goals, he added, “is to have something that cuts through the tremendous amount of sound and fury out there.” Hulse added that he also wants “it to be fun and funny and show some of the absurdities of DC because everyone needs a good laugh."
The Times' Washington shake-up news came just hours after Capital –- recently acquired by Politico owner Robert Allbritton -- announced that the New York site would launch a “Capital Playbook” on Thursday.
Jim VandeHei, chief executive of Politico and Capital, said in an email to HuffPost that "any competition is fantastic for the soul."
“We no doubt see the Times as a journalistic competitor but on the business side not so much: we focus on a select group of influential readers in politics, government, business and the media while they are appealing to a more general audience and casual reader," VandeHei said.
While Abramson acknowledged reading Mike Allen and has praised Politico reporters like Maggie Haberman, she's also knocked the publication's pursuit of stories aimed at a relatively small group of political operatives and media insiders.
In August, Abramson said that when Politico breaks news, it’s often “the kind of news that I have called ‘scooplets’ that are interesting in the moment but somewhat evanescent in their importance.” Last month, Abramson described a controversial Politico story on her stewardship of the Times as "shoddy" and "sexist."
Despite such criticism, Times management has turned Politico's way a couple times this year when looking to strengthen its political coverage.
Ryan’s first major hire as political editor in May was Jonathan Martin, a Politico staffer from the organization’s earliest days and one of its best-known writers. The Times also approached Haberman, who didn't jump ship.
But Politico struck back last month, with 27-year Times veteran Rick Berke joining as Politico's executive editor. Berke had once been seen as Abramson's right-hand man.
Disclosure: This reporter worked at Politico from 2007-2010.