When You’re Trying to Figure Out Who Will Make a Good Journalist

In 40 years at the Washingtonian, I looked at thousands of resumes, many from applicants to the magazine’s internship program, and every editor has his or her own ideas of what kind of person will make a good journalist.

I suspect I differed from many editors in that I mostly ignored the education part of  resumes. I glanced at it but never thought good grades at a top school had much to do with the kind of common sense intelligence needed to be a good reporter and writer. That thinking was reinforced by a conversation with a senior lawyer at one of Washington’s top law firms. He said he had learned to be wary of top law school graduates—as judged by grades. “They’re great in the library but couldn’t try a case if their life depended on it.”

The Night the Football Star Told the Supreme Court Justice: “Loosen up, Sandy baby.”

By Ron Cohen

Two UPI legends: Ron Cohen toasts Helen Thomas.

In 40-plus years as a journalist, I wrote about wars, assassinations, elections, tornadoes, plane crashes, fires, floods, volcanoes, moonwalks. I interviewed presidents, wannabe presidents, movie stars, several governors who wound up wearing orange prison jump suits, best-selling authors, hall-of-fame sports figures.

Not to mention a dark-haired woman who regularly had been smuggled into the White House, under Jackie’s nose, for middle-of-the-night dalliances with John F. Kennedy.

But the story that caused the biggest sensation: John Riggins and Sandra Day O’Connor.

The Twitterization of Print

The Washington Post has a story today saying you shouldn’t eat lots and lots of French fries—dietary advice that won’t surprise many readers but in the Post’s Style section it became a front-page feature with the headline, “French fries could kill you, a new study says. But don’t panic!” The jump headline: “Frequent fry-eating is linked to death.”

Dear Reader: You Should Know That We Have a Conflict of Interest Here

With Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, now about to also own Whole Foods, will the Post’s Food section have to tread more carefully when writing about supermarkets?

While editing the Washingtonian, I had to make a decision that caused me to think about the journalism ethics of publishing or not publishing something critical of Whole Foods.

Whole Foods had come to the Washington area, breaking the hold that the more mass-market chains, Giant and Safeway, had on food buying. Whole Foods seemed higher quality, more health conscious, perfect for upwardly mobile Washingtonians willing to pay higher prices.

The Most Important Thing an Editor Can Say Is No

Oliver Stone defended Vladimir Putin to
Stephen Colbert. The audience laughed at him.
Washington Post headline June 13, 2017

Laughing at Stone, not taking him seriously, is the right response to the sometimes brilliant film director when he ventures into politics.

Here was my response to Stone in 1991 when he made the movie, JFK.

WASHINGTON (AP)  Film critic Pat Dowell never wrote a review her editors wouldn’t run. But that was before she gave 3 1/2 stars to ”JFK.” She’s now the ex-critic of Washingtonian magazine, after resigning when editor Jack Limpert spiked her words of praise for the controversial movie.

Unfair to President Trump? DC Journalists Have Talked It Over and We Don’t Agree.

Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan today asked if media coverage of President Trump has been “terribly unfair,” as the President claimed in a commencement address to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Sullivan: “Here’s my carefully nuanced answer: Hell, no.”

She says that negative vs. positive coverage of President Trump is the wrong question. She says:

The idea idea of balance is suspect on its face. Should positive coverage be  provided, as it were a birthright, to a president who consistently lies, who has spilled classified information to an adversary, and who fired the FBI director who was investigating his administration?

So unfairness to President Trump is not a Washington Post problem.

Vic Gold Discovers the Real Business of Washington

Vic moved to Washington in 1958 and joined the PR firm of Selvage & Lee where, as he recounted in his book, I Don’t Need You, his first assignment was to write promo articles for the Anhydrous Ammonia Association. He asked his boss what the association was; he was told, “Fertilizer lobby.”

“Then why don’t they just call it the Bullshit Lobby?”

“Well, how would we tell it apart from the rest of them?”

—From “Vic Gold, An Appreciation,” on the Daily Kos.

Notes from James Comey’s 6/8/17 Testimony Before the Senate Intelligence Committee

Senator James Risch of Idaho: OK. So — so, again, so the American people can understand this, that report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?

Former FBI Director James Comey: In — in the main, it was not true. And, again, all of you know this, maybe the American people don’t. The challenge — and I’m not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information, is that people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on.

If a Mafia Boss Ran the Country? Vic Gold Saw the Possibilities

The Boss of Bosses takes the oath.

Trump would have made a great mafia boss. Not sure he’s going to make a great president.

Vic Gold: He Brought a Lot of Wit and Laughter to Politics and Journalism

Vic sometimes looked serious but inside he was smiling.

Vic Gold, who wrote often about the media and politics for the Washingtonian, died last night after a short illness. He was 88.

Here is Vic interviewing himself in a 2008 Washingtonian piece. An excerpt:

If you were teaching a course in Washington 101, what textbooks would you use?

Two come to mind, one fiction, one nonfiction. First, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, the best novel ever written about the dynamics of power in American politics. My other would be Safire’s Political Dictionary, the liveliest one-volume summary of American electoral history a political junkie could ask for.