Meet Newark Politico, which is not affiliated with Politico: Could the hard-luck city finally be getting some coverage?
Newark, a hard-luck city with a population of less than 300,000, has many problems. An overabundance of politics-minded media outlets is not one of them.
While a number of online news operations have sprung up in recent years to fill a void left by the contraction of the statehouse newspaper bureaus in Trenton, Newark's government is now covered on a full-time basis by The Star-Ledger, and that's pretty much it.
The Times shuttered its Newark bureau there several years ago (after a last-fling experiment in political blogging), and New Jersey Network TV, a public outlet that used to devote a fair amount of attention to Newark's civic affairs, was just this summer turned over to New York-based WNET in a cost-saving measure by the Republican governor, Chris Christie.
It's not that there's not an appetite for political news in Newark, where local politics attracted national attention over the course of the rise of Cory Booker, portrayed most famously in the documentary Street Fight, which covered his first, unsuccessful run for mayor in 2002. It's just that, apparently, it is the collective judgment of New Jersey's remaining for-profit news outlets that there's not much gain in covering it.
So when we heard that a Newark politics site was quietly recruiting writers, we were curious. And the name—Newark Politico—made us even more curious.
There is indeed a site at NewarkPolitico.com, though it's not much to look at in what is self-evidently a prelaunch phase. So far, it consists of six dummy article pages promoted as if they were written either by or about various Newark political figures, such as Booker; former mayor and state senator (and convicted felon) Sharpe James; and Steve Adubato Sr., whose son is a columnist for The Star-Ledger.
The copyright-holder, it appears, is a company called Newark News Corp., which we couldn't find in New Jersey or Delaware.
Given the name it seemed worth checking, and: Newark Politico is not owned by Politico parent Allbritton Communications. Politico co-founder and executive editor Jim VandeHei confirmed to us that Politico has nothing to do with the project, and that he hadn't heard of it until we wrote him.
It's not just the name that's similar to the popular Washington politics site. The type in which the name of the site is rendered in some places, including on the site's wallpaper and a logo uploaded to the site's Facebook page, looks almost identical to the type in the Politico logo.
Newark Politico's Facebook page doesn't offer any clues as to what the site might look like once it's up and running. But the URL is registered to a company called Icon Media Group, a Newark-based web-development, design and commercial printing firm that appears to have done work for several local political campaigns and influential New Jersey preachers.
Reached by phone, one of the principals of Icon Media Group confirmed that they are developing the site for someone else but declined to say who. He said he had no idea when it would launch.
"It's going to be a site about politics in Newark," he said.
He also offered to pass along our inquiry to the site's owner. We've yet to get a response, but we'll update if we do.
We likewise reached out to Booker's office to see if the mayor had heard of Newark Politico, and if he had been approached about contributing.
"To our knowledge, no, the mayor has not been approached to contribute to the site," a spokeswoman for Booker told Capital. "We do not know who is behind the site."