Talking Points Memo: How a Blog Became a Media Powerhouse

Talking Points Memo

If you are interested in politics, journalism, or the internet, you have probably heard of Talking Points Memo (TPM). TPM is a blog that covers US politics and current affairs from a progressive perspective. It was founded in 2000 by Joshua Micah Marshall, a former magazine editor who wanted to share his opinions and insights with the world.

Since then, TPM has grown into a media powerhouse that attracts millions of readers, employs dozens of staff, and wins prestigious awards.

In this article, we will explore the history, achievements, and challenges of TPM, and how it has transformed the landscape of online journalism.

The Early Years: A One-Man Show

TPM started as a personal blog by Marshall, who was working as a Washington editor for The American Prospect magazine at the time. He used the blog to comment on the news of the day, offer analysis and commentary, and link to other sources. He also interacted with his readers, who often provided him with tips, feedback, and corrections.

One of the first major stories that TPM covered was the 2000 US presidential election and the subsequent Florida recount. Marshall was one of the few journalists who questioned the legitimacy and accuracy of the process, and he exposed some of the irregularities and controversies that surrounded it. He also criticized the mainstream media for being too passive and complacent in their coverage.

TPM gained more attention and popularity in 2002-2003, when it focused on the Bush administration’s push for war in Iraq. Marshall was skeptical of the claims and evidence that were used to justify the invasion, and he challenged the official narrative that was presented by the government and the media. He also reported on the dissenting voices and opinions that were ignored or marginalized by the mainstream outlets.

The Expansion: A Team Effort

In 2005, Marshall decided to expand TPM and turn it into a more professional and ambitious operation. He hired his first staff members, including reporters, editors, and web developers.

He also launched two new sections: TPMCafe, which featured guest posts from experts and commentators; and TPMmuckraker, which focused on investigative journalism and exposing corruption and scandals.

One of the biggest scoops that TPMmuckraker broke was the 2006 US attorneys scandal, which involved the firing of several federal prosecutors for political reasons.

TPMmuckraker was the first to reveal that some of the prosecutors were dismissed because they refused to pursue cases that would benefit or harm certain politicians or parties.

The story sparked a public outcry and a congressional investigation, which led to the resignation of several officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In 2007, Marshall consolidated all his sections under one umbrella: Talking Points Memo. He also redesigned the website and added more features, such as video clips, podcasts, polls, and live chats.

He also increased his staff size and opened new offices in New York and Washington DC.

The Recognition: A Media Force

In 2008, TPM reached new heights of success and influence. It was one of the most popular and influential sources of information and commentary during the 2008 US presidential election. It provided extensive coverage of the candidates, campaigns, debates, polls, and results.

It also broke several important stories, such as the revelation that Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin had abused her power as governor of Alaska.

TPM also received several awards and accolades for its work. It won a George Polk Award for legal reporting for its coverage of the US attorneys scandal. It also won a Webby Award for best political blog. And most notably, it became the first online-only publication to win a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for its coverage of the 2007-2008 Wall Street crisis.

In 2009-2010, TPM continued to grow and innovate. It launched two new sections: TPMLiveWire, which offered breaking news and updates; and TPMDC, which covered policy and legislation in Washington DC.

It also introduced a membership program called TPMPrime, which offered exclusive content and benefits to subscribers. It also experimented with new formats and platforms, such as e-books, documentaries, mobile apps, and social media.

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The Challenges: A Competitive Market

In recent years, TPM has faced some challenges and difficulties in maintaining its relevance and profitability in a crowded and competitive market. It has had to compete with other online media outlets that have similar or overlapping audiences and agendas.

It has also had to adapt to changing consumer preferences and habits, such as the rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as sources of news and information.

TPM has also had to deal with some internal issues and controversies. In 2011-2012, it faced criticism from some former employees who accused it of having a toxic work environment and culture.

They claimed that they were subjected to long hours, low pay, high pressure, poor management, lack of diversity, harassment, and discrimination. Marshall denied these allegations and defended his leadership style.

In 2013-2014, TPM underwent a major restructuring and reorganization. It laid off some of its staff, closed some of its offices, and reduced some of its sections. It also revamped its website and editorial strategy.

It shifted its focus from breaking news and scoops to more in-depth and analytical reporting and commentary. It also emphasized more original and exclusive content and stories.

The Future: A Bright Outlook

Despite the challenges and setbacks, TPM has remained a prominent and respected player in the online media landscape. It has retained a loyal and engaged audience of millions of readers, who value its quality, credibility, and independence.

It has also maintained a talented and dedicated team of journalists, editors, and developers, who strive to produce the best content possible.

TPM has also shown a willingness and ability to evolve and innovate. It has embraced new technologies and tools that enhance its reporting and storytelling. It has also explored new topics and issues that reflect the interests and concerns of its readers and the society at large.

As TPM celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2020, it can look back at its remarkable journey with pride and satisfaction. It can also look forward to its future with optimism and confidence. It has proven that a blog can become a media powerhouse, and that online journalism can make a difference.

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