Making the scene
State-jobs digest morphs into news rag for political junkies
There’s a new news source in town this week that may prove to be a must-read for those with insatiable appetites for coverage of California’s political community.
Capitol Weekly, known previously as a paper for state-job hunters and as a pot-stirrer that publishes the names and salaries of state workers, has been revamped to include news from inside the state’s political bubble. And it will be delivered with a heavy dose of snark.
“We want to break news. We want to have smaller stuff that doesn’t have a home in more general-interest newspapers. If we see a legislator break a heel in the hallway and trip and fall, that may be news to us and appear in the Weekly,” said the paper’s new editorial director, Anthony York. He added, on further thought: “Maybe that’s not a good example.”
But York promised that the content in Capitol Weekly would fill a void in Sacramento: coverage of the state’s legislative scene and scenesters written for people who can’t get enough of California politics. It will come with more insider detail and more attitude than is found in blogs or daily newspapers, he said.
York said the paper will resemble Roll Call, the politics-focused newspaper distributed on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
“After D.C., California is the biggest game in town when it comes to politics,” said notable news junkie and political pundit Karen Hanretty, spokeswoman for the state Republican Party. “Sacramento is long overdue in having the equivalent to Roll Call—an insider’s view of politics in the state.”
The idea for a revamped Capitol Weekly was born in June when Political Pulse, a subscription-based political newsletter owned by York and his father, Arnold York, acquired Capitol Weekly Inc., which was founded 20-some years ago by Ken Mandler.
John Howard, who has covered Sacramento for the Associated Press, The Orange County Register and the now-shuttered California Journal, will be Capitol Weekly’s managing editor. He will be teamed with two reporters new to the Capitol (one of whom is a recent SN&R intern, Shane Goldmacher).
York said that the new paper will continue to print the state-jobs listings that have been its bread and butter. But now, it also will include a political astrology feature, a “love, life and political” advice column and humor peppered throughout, York said.
“I come from a background of publications that encourage that kind of writing,” said York, who first cut his political reporting teeth in Sacramento in the heyday of news and commentary Web site Salon.com. He also has worked for California Journal and currently helps write The Roundup, a daily punch-line-laced digest of the state’s biggest political stories that appears at www.aroundthecapitol.com.
Roll Call, the D.C. paper York often cites as a model for what he is doing, considered starting a California publication of its own, said Publisher Laurie Battaglia-Skinker. Roll Call conducted focus groups in Sacramento this spring but has dumped the idea for now. Battaglia-Skinker would not say why.
She said plans for a new Capitol Weekly did not affect Roll Call’s decision not to pursue a California political publication, but she said of the Weekly’s team of partners, “They have an insider knowledge of California that we couldn’t bring to the table.”
John Fairbanks, editor of the daily Capitol Morning Report, a faxed and e-mailed rundown of political press conferences, speeches and hearings, said politics watchers can always use more news.
“More power to Capitol Weekly,” he said. “The more people putting out information, the better.”
York said one key to Capitol Weekly’s success will be its ability to drum up advertising. Another change for the publication will be its cover price. Last week, a copy of Capitol Weekly purchased at a newsstand across the street from the Capitol building cost $3.95. This week, it will be free—but only immediately around the Capitol building. York said the paper’s 3,000 paid subscriptions will remain and that he aims to increase its readership beyond downtown.
“We’re hoping there’s a hunger for this stuff outside Sacramento,” York said.
Hanretty thinks there is. “The rest of the nation watches very closely what goes on in California politics,” she said. “I think people in New York will be reading Capitol Weekly within a year.”