Washington Week

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John Harris

I stumbled into journalism during my freshman year at Carleton College in Minnesota. A friend worked for the student newspaper and asked me to write a couple of articles. I did, and the effect was instantaneous. Suddenly, I was certain what I wanted to do in life.

I had always been fascinated by Washington and politics, and I immediately had my sights on The Washington Post. Thanks to some good luck, I got there sooner than I could have reasonably expected. I graduated from college on a Saturday in June of 1985 and started as a summer intern on a Monday. At the end of the summer, editors asked me to hang around a while longer.

That while ended up being more than 21 years. At the Post, I covered local politics, state politics in Virginia and national politics. From 1995 to 2001, I covered the Clinton White House. Later, I expanded on that reporting in a history of Bill Clinton’s presidency, “The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House.” I am also co-author, with my friend Mark Halperin of ABC News, of a book on presidential politics, “The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008.”

After 20 years as a reporter, I became drawn to editing. In part, this was just a sense that I had been around the track plenty of times and was ready for something different. Even more, however, it was a conviction that, at a time when journalism is undergoing wrenching upheavals, everyone who cares about the profession should be involved in answering the question, “What’s next?” Becoming an editor was a way to be more immersed in those conversations about the future – about how to use the Web more creatively, about how to sustain serious journalism at a time of diverse threats.

My brief editing career led me and Jim VandeHei – who worked with me at the Post and is my partner at The Politico – to have blue-sky conversations about what we would do if we ever had the chance to start a publication about politics from the ground up. Those conversations were mostly a way of passing the time. Then, in the fall of 2006, they became a lot more serious. Robert Allbritton made clear that his notions about the future of journalism were very much in sympathy with ours. He offered Jim and me the chance to start something from scratch, and we took it.

That is how we wound up at The Politico (our print newspaper in Washington) and Politico.com (the way our work will reach a much larger audience around the country). We have assembled a team of reporters and editors who will wake up each day looking for fresh ways to attack the best political stories in and around Capitol Hill and on the 2008 campaign trail.

Along the way, we hope to add to the conversation about what’s next for journalism. And we are determined to have fun while doing it – something that is in lamentably short supply in newsrooms these days.

Putting out a new publication is hard work – and would be impossible if not for the people helping me on the home front. I am married to Ann O’Hanlon, and we live with our three children – Liza, Griffin and Nikki – in Alexandria, Va.

Most Recent Appearances

Recent Stories

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    July 23, 2014
    Polls show Hillary Rodham Clinton drawing support far above any other prospective Democratic or Republican presidential candidate in 2016. The most experienced campaign operatives in the business are jostling to be by her side if she decides to run.
  • Politico
    July 22, 2014
    Brilliant journalist rockets to the top of a newsroom, then discovers that the traits that make a great reporter or writer are not the same — indeed, can sometimes be the very opposite — as the traits that make someone a capable newsroom leader.
  • 'Ambassador, dear, you are lying'
    July 21, 2014
    President Barack Obama arrives Tuesday in the capital of Europe, a city of frameworks and furrowed brows, of multilateral dialogue and expressions of grave concern, where the locals speak French, international bureaucrats do their work in English and