Who's behind Newark Politico? 'A group of Newark professionals,' as yet unidentified, gets a 'cease-and-desist' from Politico
9:42 am Nov. 9, 20113
The vestigial website Newark Politico will be a news- and commentary-based venture with content produced by full-time journalists as well as contributions from area political figures, a representative of the company responding to an inquiry from Capital wrote in an email yesterday.
The representative, who hasn't yet responded to a request for his or her full name, wouldn't identify any of the columnists and wouldn't divulge the identities of the investors in the site, but said they were planning to launch the site in full next month.
"To date, we have made requests and have been in contact with most of Newark's political players in an effort to lend their political views and commentaries to Newark Politico," the representative wrote. "Due to the political nature of the site we have chosen to keep confidential all communications with these individuals. We can neither confirm nor deny who has agreed to be a contributor."
"I can however tell you that the site was created by a group of Newark professionals who have no affiliation to any local or statewide politician, political faction or interest," the email read in part.
The website, which has no relation to the influential Beltway publication that shares half of its name, has been quietly recruiting writers and developing its homepage with the help of a local design firm called Icon Media Group.
The unmistakable similarity between Newark Politico's logo and that of the D.C.-based Politico was also dismissed as coincidence.
"Despite our great respect for Politico.com and the work they do regarding national political news, Newark Politico will focus strictly on local Newark political news, issues and commentary," the representative wrote. "We are in no way attempting to copy Politico.com. The similarities in the logos are purely coincidental."
Newark Politico is getting ready for its debut as some traditional media has retrenched from Newark, a crime- and poverty-plagued municipality of less than 300,000 that has nonetheless enjoyed a certain amount of positive P.R. over the past several years (that $100 million donation last fall from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for instance) thanks to Mayor Cory Booker's political star power. The New York Times shuttered its Newark bureau several years ago, and New Jersey Network TV, a public outlet that used to devote a fair amount of attention to Newark's civic affairs, was handed over to New York's WNET over the summer as a result of Gov. Chris Christie's belt-tightening. That leaves New Jersey's Star-Ledger as the only major media player with a footprint in the city.
But as a reader pointed out in the comments section of our item yesterday, Newark Politico will not be without competition in the online space.
"Maybe you weren't aware of Patch.com and its two Newark websites," wrote Liz Moore, regional editor for Essex County of AOL's national network of hyperlocal community news hubs. "We have been covering local news including politics in Newark since May."
Those sites, of course, have come under scrutiny for potential conflicts of interest: They were created as part of a partnership with Booker.
“Bringing Patch to Newark is an exciting next step in informing, engaging, and inspiring our community with the news and information they need every day,” Booker said in a statement when the sites were launched in March following AOL's merger with The Huffington Post.
“I'm thrilled to welcome Patch to our neighborhoods and I'm certain the sites will be a terrific asset for everyone who lives, works, volunteers, and raises families here," he said. "Information helps build communities, and bringing Patch to Newark will be a great thing for our city."
Perhaps that's why it appears, at least so far, that Booker is at least one local politician who hasn't signed on to the Newark Politico project.
"To our knowledge, no, the mayor has not been approached to contribute to the site," his spokeswoman told us yesterday.
UPDATE: Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei wrote to say the company has sent a cease and desist letter to the founders of Newark Politico. VandeHei confirmed that both the design of the logo and the name of the site are the targets of the letter.
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