Andrew Malcolm, the former New York Times correspondent and Laura Bush press secretary (as well as part-time Karl Rove assistant), talks about his conversion from L.A. Times editorial writer to blogging for a living as one of the two main writers on Top of the Ticket, the LAT's politics (and most-read) blog. Malcolm, 64, was interviewed by Mark Glaser of PBS' MediaShift. Excerpts:
Malcolm: [Managing Editor] Doug Frantz said he wanted me and Don Frederick in the Washington bureau, who I did not know, to write a two-person team political blog thatís different, and we could figure out what it should be. Don Frederick had been covering politics since 1984. Heís in his 50s and Iím 64. My first political convention was 1968 as an assistant to the national editor, running around helping to cover the riots in Chicago.
Q: How did you react to the idea of doing the blog?
Malcolm: When Doug proposed this, my first thought was, ďGood lord, what do I write about? Every hour?Ē It turned out that it wasnít too hard once you get into the groove. Iíve had hundreds more ideas than I could ever get to. The thought of doing that, up to the minute, ďHoly Toledo!Ē I called my son and said itís excited but very intimidating. I spent at least two months doing nothing all day but being online and reading stuff ó blogs, political sites ó and learning the lay of the land. Just like youíre assigned to Tokyo, get out and see whatís going on.
This was spring of last year, and they asked how I saw the blog developing. Well we had to be different. I asked myself: What do I enjoy about being online? If you distill it down, what I liked about being online was it was like beachcombing. You never know what youíll find. And thatís the opposite of what newspapers have tried to do over the years. Youíve got the most important story in the upper right, and youíll have a picture here above the fold and itís less important as you go down the page. [The newspaper] is directly contradictory of what the new experience is where Iím in control and Iíll go where I want. There are no lane markers, you can jump to wherever you want and do what you want.
Unpredictability was at the top of my list. And we had to be pretty well informed and well written, and Don and I had done a lot of that. And I liked the idea of having it run around the clock because a lot of blogs shut down at night.
Malcolm says he avoids talking about his own politics — and used to re-register regularly just to confound observers. His posts are edited by the Times before going up, but not his entries in the comments. The blog, by the way, has received 43,000 comments and Malcolm says page views in May are over 2.5 million.