Commemorating One Year of Axios Telling Us How to 'Be Smart'


Today, we celebrate Axios’ one year anniversary as a family. I know this because when I opened up my Axios AM daily newsletter (presented by Morgan Stanley) yesterday, Jim VandeHei, the co-founder and CEO of Axios, had written in a post aggregated therein that on the occasion of the company’s first birthday, “I wanted to take a moment to reach out and thank you for being part of the Axios family.”

I want to take a moment to say you’re welcome, Jim!

Axios began as the brain child of Politico veterans VandeHei and Mike Allen, who made his name building out the popular Playbook morning newsletter. A media company whose stock has steadily risen in the first year of Trump’s presidency, it’s been described as “the perfect vehicle for the nonstop chatter coming from the White House.” In lieu of journalistic features like “context” that take up too much space, Axios AM trades on a barrage of snackable micro-scoops from anonymous political “insiders.” The newsletter is access journalism stripped down to its barest bones, whose scraps are fed to (I imagine) important businessmen dying to read Allen’s latest “mindmeld.”

VandeHei said he sees Axios’ first year as having “helped make millions of people smarter, faster on topics that matter.” This, of course, is the brand that Axios wants to project, which is exemplified by its regular “be smart” section (reminiscent of Allen’s Playbook Facts of Life) that summarizes the day’s scoops at the bottom of newsletters and offers a one-line takeaway for some posts. If you’ve been wondering why all the middle-aged Beltway dudes at your cocktail parties this year have been talking over each other about just how NOT normal everything is, Axios is at least partially to blame:

To commemorate Axios’ anniversary, I’ve compiled, in no particular order, some of the most important pieces of advice on how we could be Smarter, Faster in the first year of Trump’s presidency:

  • Be smart: It’s just not normal.
  • Be smart: The breakdown in the relationship between a president and the Secretary of State has profound effects on American statecraft and the way foreign countries view this administration.
  • Be smart: Comey’s testimony may add logs, but the fire is blazing.
  • Be smart: It’s not just not normal. It’s just wrong.
  • Life lesson: Most men are good men. They treat women with respect and dignity. They work hard, set good examples, and do the right even when no one is looking. Be smart: It’s sad testament to our times that we need to be reminded of this. But I’m grateful to be surrounded by great role models — women and men.
  • Be smart: We used to make fun of a kid on our street who was so dopey that he didn’t know milk came from a cow—he thought it came from the market.
  • Sound smart: Momentum matters—in sports, in love and in politics. Momentum is all against the GOP.
  • Be smart: The most consequential workplace in America has been one of the most dysfunctional. General Kelly took an instantly assertive tack, and some of the overt shenanigans stopped overnight.
  • Be smart: If you’re in your 30s and you need to ask the mother’s permission, date someone else.
  • Be smart: If you have the privilege of leading, you know what to do.
  • Be smart: The down side of today is more fog — and the fog spawns the ugliness that freezes Washington and infects the national debate.
  • Sound smart: Imagine how much the public would never have known if Trump hadn’t canned Comey.
  • Be smart: Mueller is amassing the talent arsenal you’d build to bring criminal charges.
  • Be smart: Mow your own lawn. You’ll feel awesome. Try it, and you’ll thank me.
  • Be smart: Remember that we’re living through history that will be studied and debated until the end of time. Many Trump backers, both the eager and reluctant ones, enjoy the destruction of norms and bemoan the highly critical coverage of this presidency. But we should never lose sight that we are experiencing a daily display of unprecedented actions and behaviors.
  • Be smart: Trump’s brio, branding, and bombast can’t mask the glum reality, reflected in an increasingly fatalistic mood in Trumpworld.
  • Be smart: The values you project, whether they’re intentional or not, will quickly pollinate through your organization. Know what they are, and make sure they’re what you want.
  • Be smart: If the President doesn’t see a quick turnaround under General Kelly, he’ll be out of excuses: That will mean it’s him.
  • Be smart: Trump, who had a pretty good life before, has never seemed to love this job as much as friends thought he might. And he’s about to find out just how hard a job it is.
  • Be smart: Economics is like politics: Everyone has an opinion, but everyone is guessing.

So happy one-year anniversary to my big, smart Axios family. May you always move fast, sound smart, and remind us that none of this is normal.

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