For 100 weeks in a row, there has been a feature inside POLITICO called Question of the Week. It was launched by our departing colleague Tomer Ovadia and each week someone from our business, technology or product teams has engaged a question about the future of media. These emails are a kind of rolling seminar and go out widely across several departments in Rosslyn, but the distribution list never grew to include many people in the newsroom or in Brussels or the states. Tomer asked me to guest author the 100th question this week and I thought I should share it company wide. The question on my mind is one everyone here has pondered in one way or another.

100. Why journalism?

I’m honored to join in the discussion for the 100th POLITICO Question of the Week. For all that this series has tackled changes in our business — in technology, in the competitive landscape — it strikes me that we should engage with our profession’s eternal question:

Why would someone go into journalism?

For those of us in the newsroom, this question, or its subsidiary — “Why should someone stay in journalism?” — is at the core of everything. As a practical matter, though, we hardly spend time with it. Editors are always answering why someone should come to POLITICO, or in this era of fierce competition for talent, why he or she should stay. That’s different than the fundamental choice of why this career in the first place.

Ben Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991 | Getty Images

What mattered in this age was not the legacy power of brands but the ability of individual journalists to have impact based on the power of their own expertise, creativity and authority.

POLITICO was born of this belief. We wanted to create a great institution but knew we were in an entrepreneurial age in which the fact that we were new, not anchored to old assumptions on either the editorial or business side, was a critical advantage. And we knew the key to our success was establishing a roster of distinctive journalistic voices — a few established stars and a larger group whom we believed (and we were right in an impressive number of cases) would be future stars under our guidance.

But I observe that the media professionals who are building careers that carry them through a professional lifetime, who are reaping the greatest psychic rewards and the greatest financial ones, are organizing their efforts around making themselves the very best at some important facet of the craft.

I believe POLITICO has a comparative advantage of its own in this environment, since we’re a highly focused publication, dedicated to dominating the politics and policy space, rather than a general interest platform organized around chasing every latest thing.

John Harris is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Politico and is one of its co-founders.

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