Political Wire‘s Taegan Goddard was nice enough to answer a few questions for one of our Famous 5 interviews.
Please enjoy the interview and the Yankees trash talk.
A lot of us know Political Wire. We get the pithy headlines and the twice-daily email updates. But tell who are you and who are your typical readers?
I’m a guy who was lucky enough to find a way to merge my passions for politics, technology and media into an exciting career. After graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School, I worked in the U.S. Senate and for a governor in Connecticut before leaving politics to spend a dozen years as chief operating officer of a prominent Wall Street investment firm. It was during this time I started Political Wire, mainly as a hobby, to keep in touch with the political world.
The inspiration for the site was actually a column that used to run on Fridays on the front page of the Wall Street Journal called the Washington Wire. It was a terrific column, which I first found when I was in college. It featured interesting tidbits from the halls of government, the press gaggles and smoke-filled rooms of Washington, D.C. What I tried to do with Political Wire was to create something similar, but not to be more broadly focused on politics in general. There are many interesting stories across all levels of government across the country.
Political Wire was created for people who are very similar to me, those who love politics and follow it as passionately as they do a sport like baseball or football. While many people might read the sports page first every day, there’s a whole group of people who read Political Wire first every day, because that’s what gets them going in the morning. Those people are typically employed in politics or public affairs. They work either in political offices or on campaigns, or are elected and appointed officials themselves. In many cases they’re journalists who cover politics and, obviously, there are also the political junkies out there who just find it interesting.
What’s on your computer screen right now?
My screen is like a dashboard for monitoring the political world. It’s divided into three sections: One for email, one for Twitter and one for a series of custom scripts I use to sort through political news from hundreds of different sources, some large but most small.
If Political Wire summarizes the top news, where do you go to sift the big news from the small? Is there a method to the madness?
In the early years of Political Wire, I was probably one of the first people to use RSS feeds, and I’d even create RSS feeds for sites that didn’t have them yet. But now, almost every news site has a RSS feed. That’s a great and easy way to keep track of dozens of potential sources of interesting news. So, on a very practical basis, one of the first things I do is scan the news.
Dave Winer, the inventor of RSS, once called me a visionary for how I used RSS feeds though he was very angry when I tried to monetize it with advertising.
However, even more important today are the contributions from the Political Wire community which started and continues with email, but now also includes Twitter and Facebook. Tweets have become a fascinating way of learning what other people find interesting, and it’s also happening in real time. So if something is going on, you’ll probably know about it even before the Associated Press, Reuters, or any of the other news wires out there.
I’m also very fortunate to have built a wide network of political journalists around the country who are both readers and who let me know what’s coming.
Other than Political Wire, what do you consider mandatory political reading?
There are no better political books than the Robert Caro series on Lyndon Johnson: “Path to Power”, “Means of Ascent” and “Master of the Senate”. It’s a study of political power that is so well written and engaging that you cannot put down. Don’t let the 3,000 pages scare you off. I’m eagerly awaiting Caro’s final book in the series which covers LBJ’s presidency.
The must-read columnist of our time is Frank Rich of New York magazine (formerly of the New York Times), followed very closely by Michael Kinsley.
The best political novel of all time is “All the Kings Men” by Robert Penn Warren. It follows the political ascent of Willie Stark, a character likely modeled after the legendary Louisiana populist Huey Long. It’s filled with advice for the aspiring politician.
What do you think has been the biggest change in the media landscape in the last 5 years? What do you predict will be the biggest change in the next five years?
The mobile computing revolution has completely undermined traditional media and it’s opened up paths for upstarts like Political Wire to compete with more established brands. Newspapers are literally old news. As the “Daily Show with Jon Stewart” once asked New York Times managing editor Rick Berke, “Why is aged news better than real news?” When Berke insisted that the Times doesn’t sell “aged news” the correspondent pointed to a copy of the paper and asks, “Show me one thing in there that happened today.”
Thanks to mobile computing, no one is willing to pay for old news anymore.
The next five years are potentially even more exciting because everyone will receive their news electronically and on the go. It’s inevitable that many major newspapers and magazines will cease publishing print editions over the next five years.
You’ve got a free day in DC – with no Blackberry or iPad – what do you do/where do you go?”
My favorite thing to do when off the grid is to watch a baseball game. Ideally, the Red Sox will be in town playing the Nationals.
Speaker Boehner calls and asks you to organize a night on the town. Where are y’all going?
I’d almost certainly pass on the invitation. I’d much rather spend the night with my wife and three sons, and if it’s the Spring or Summer, very likely at a Little League game.
As a Red Sox fan, can you explain their slow start? Do you foresee a turnaround or a painful season ahead?
Yankees fans may be celebrating in April, but I can assure you it will be Red Sox fans dancing in October.