AJR  Features
From AJR,   February/March 2012

Politico Goes Long   

Lois Romano, known for her in-depth political profiles, starts at the fast-paced political Web site on Monday. Fri., February 17, 2012.

By Alexa Kravitz
Alexa Kravitz (akravitz@ajr.umd.edu) is a student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.     

At first glance, it seems like a mismatch.

Politico is a news organization known for its penchant for jumping on stories, for its high metabolism, its determination to win the morning or hour or minute.

Lois Romano, on the other hand, plays long ball. While it's true that she launched the Washington Post's Reliable Source gossip column, she's best known for her insightful profiles of major political figures.

But starting Monday, Romano will be working for Politico. And to hear her and Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris tell it, it's a match made in heaven.

"We were looking for somebody who has a real knack for illuminating the human dimension of politics," Harris says. "We only have a few people who can capture the human element in a stylish, more feature-y way."

It doesn't hurt that Romano knows a huge amount about politics and has a wide and deep array of sources, which Harris calls "indispensible."

Romano has covered eight presidential campaigns and has profiled such figures as former President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry. "She's the real deal," Harris says. "She understands politics, she understands Washington. It's just a natural marriage."

And the feelings are mutual.

"We were former colleagues and friends, and I have enormous respect for them," says Romano of her new bosses, Harris and Politico Executive Editor Jim VandeHei. "I saw this as a wonderful opportunity for me in an election year. I love covering politics, and I love what they do."

Romano, who has been with The Daily Beast/Newsweek for the past year, worked with the duo for years at the Post, which Harris and VandeHei left in 2007 to launch the widely read political Web site cum Capitol Hill newspaper. Romano was attracted to Politico's high energy level, its specialization and its comprehensive approach to its favorite subject. "They miss nothing," she says. "In five years, they have become the must-read site for anyone in the political business. They have created an incredible brand."

She adds, "I'm hoping that I can bring some value added from my years covering politics, and learn something from them."

Maralee Schwartz, a political editor at the Washington Post, acknowledges that there will be challenges on both sides: for Politico to include long-form journalism on its menu, and for Romano to adjust to her new perch.

Nevertheless, she has faith that the collaboration will click.

"They have similar values, similar ambition and depth," says Schwartz, who edited Romano, Harris and VandeHei at the Post. "I think it's going to be a great melding."

Romano, who grew up in Brooklyn, came to Washington after graduating from Emmanuel College in Boston to get a master's in international affairs from George Washington University. In 1978, while finishing her education, she got a job at the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. Two years later, she joined the Washington Star, where she worked until it folded in 1981. She joined the Washington Post in 1982, starting out writing profiles for the Style section. She stayed at Style until 1995, later reporting for the paper's national desk.

Romano ended her long run at the Post last April when she jumped to the Tina Brown-helmed Daily Beast/Newsweek. "The Daily Beast is a very dynamic Web site covering a wide range of topics," says Romano, who reported on everything from crime to Haiti during her time there. "For a writer, that's very attractive."

But not attractive enough to keep her from joining Politico. "It isn't so much leaving The Daily Beast and Newsweek as it is going to a place that is a good fit for me this year," Romano says.

Romano worked out of Washington, quite a distance from The Daily Beast's New York headquarters. "I missed not being a part of the energy and decision-making that comes with working at a home base," she says.

"I think her experience at The Daily Beast was a great transition for her and an exciting place to be, but going to Politico now, at the heart of the campaign, rejoining John and Jim, makes a huge amount of sense," Schwartz says. "I think that they are going to give her the kind of platform she needs right now to do her best work."

And Romano is more than ready to rock. "They are very vibrant and fast-moving," she says, "and I'm really looking forward to jumping into that."