GOP operatives try the news biz – Mackenzie Weinger and Alexander Burns –


GOP operatives try the news biz – Mackenzie Weinger and Alexander Burns –

The tagline at the top of the homepage reads: “News for Republicans, by Republicans” – but that doesn’t mean members of the GOP will like what they read on The Iowa Republican.

Founded in 2009 by a former state party operative, Craig Robinson, the obsessively political website burst onto the national scene this month with a series of damaging disclosures about Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul’s 2012 campaigns. It published fresh evidence that a state senator traded his endorsement for cash and posting audio of a top Paul aide saying he’d have to “hold my nose” to work for a new boss, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The last few weeks have represented a star turn for Robinson and his site, often called “TIR,” which previously drew notice mostly for its coverage of the knife-fighting internal politics of the Iowa GOP. While online and partisan media have regularly driven coverage at the national level, few local operations have sent ripples of across state lines on the scale of Robinson’s recent postings on embattled state Sen. Kent Sorenson and former Paul campaign chief Jesse Benton.

In its own category of notoriety is the South Carolina site FITS News. It is authored by blogger Will Folks, who claimed in 2010 to have had an affair with Gov. Nikki Haley, which Haley has firmly denied. GOP sites have popped up in other states as well, with mixed results.

Former Des Moines Register political columnist David Yepsen, who spent 34 years at the paper, said Robinson’s site and others like it fill a niche — even in the over-saturated “media zoo” of the Iowa caucuses — because what they’re “publishing is just so insider-ish that the mainstream media will ignore it.”

“If I’m a Republican activist and junkie and operative in Iowa, I’m going to be reading what Craig has to say,” Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said. “I don’t know if that necessarily displaces my consumption from other places, but, you know, I’m going to pay attention to him. But what is that universe? Maybe a couple thousand people, max?”

He added: “I’ve often hoped that there’d be less concern about stump speeches and events, and more attention paid to campaign finances and stuff like Craig Robinson was paying attention to, the behind-the-scenes stuff, the insider stuff, the stuff that shapes campaigns.”

The challenge for any of these highly specialized, partisan-leaning sites is to draw interest outside the limited universe of highly motivated Republican (and sometimes Democratic) activists who will consume unlimited quantities of political news, speculation and gossip. So far, TIR’s counterparts in other states have seldom broken into a larger readership (though NH Journal’s polling earned a mention on HBO’s “The Newsroom.”)

via GOP operatives try the news biz – Mackenzie Weinger and Alexander Burns –

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