The Long Game—in Fiction and Journalism

By Jack Limpert

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last film, “A Most Wanted Man,” based on a novel by John le Carre, opens tomorrow and critic David Denby gives it a mostly positive review in the July 28 New Yorker. He ends with this about Hoffman: “He almost never smiles, almost never looks at people until he turns threateningly toward them with a bulldog frown. The film gives le Carre’s bitterly intelligent man some streaks of tenderness, which bring him closer to a conventional movie hero. Yet the heroic quality in Hoffman doesn’t need softening. A great actor, he carried his despair and his outsized sense of responsibility with him to the end.”

Great Moments of the Pre-Digital Age: Anna Wintour on Covers

By Jack Limpert

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Anna Wintour hit the remote button to show the first slide and it was like the room exploded. Photograph courtesy of Flickr/Creative Commons.

Today’s news: Tom Wallace, editorial director of Conde Nast magazines, has left the company. Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, continues as artistic director of Conde Nast magazines.
The memorable moment was at an all-day American Society of Magazine Editors conference in New York where the star attraction was Anna Wintour. A Brit, Wintour had moved in 1987 from editing British Vogue to Conde Nast’s House & Garden. After a year there she became editor of the American Vogue and began to change its covers, using younger models, mixing lower-cost clothes with high fashion, and for the first time dressing a model in jeans.

“Ask Questions Where You Get Short Answers. We Don’t Get Paid to Listen.”

By Jack Limpert

The editor is talking to a young reporter who does good work but isn’t posting enough stories: “You’re taking too long. Get what you need faster. You’re getting paid to keep things moving. Ask more focused questions—try to get yes and no answers.”

Actually, it’s not something heard in a newsroom. I changed the setting—the exchange was between two physicians at a Washington hospital. As it was told to me by one of them, the young doctor was under pressure to see more patients at the hospital’s out-patient clinic and she was being advised on how to ask questions to elicit short answers and not let the patient ramble on about how he or she is feeling.

A Surprising Lunch at the Army-Navy Club With a Former Marine Who Was White House Chief of Staff


After becoming White House chief of staff, Don Regan soon had to battle Nancy Reagan.

By Jack Limpert

By the time Donald Regan came to Washington as Secretary of the Treasury, he had fought and won a lot of battles. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, he was a student at Harvard Law School; he joined the Marines, fought in five major campaigns in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal and Okinawa, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war, he went to work for Merrill Lynch and by 1971 he was running the big investment firm.

He Says It Isn’t So

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W. Joseph Campbell: He busts myths.

By Mike Feinsilber

True or false?

—After watching Walter Cronkite’s 1968 CBS broadcast in which Cronkite concluded that the war in Vietnam had become “mired in stalemate,” President Lyndon Johnson said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America” and within a month announced he would not run again.

—After newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst sent illustrator Frederick Remington to Cuba, Remington sent back word that he wanted to return home because there was nothing to illustrate. Hearst cabled back, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.”

Stop the World! The Typewriter Is Coming Back

By Jack Limpert

My final story for The Washingtonian was a piece titled: “If Typewriters Could Talk: The Day I Found Out They No Longer Needed Me.”

Doing the writing was an old Royal; it lamented that after decades of loyal service—”does anyone remember that we never crashed?”— it had been unceremoniously carried out of the magazine’s DC offices, put in the backseat of a car, and taken to the old editor’s basement desk in a leafy suburb of Washington.

Getting Stiffed by Art Buchwald—the Rest of the Story

By Jack Limpert

A post yesterday about Art Buchwald taking a story I thought he was doing for The Washingtonian and blithely selling it to Playboy for a higher fee caused several journalist friends to email me condolences. One called what Buchwald did a “betrayal” and another called him a “schmuck.”

The ending of that post had a harsher tone than was intended or deserved. I was surprised by what Buchwald did but considered it a young editor’s learning experience and life went on. A few years later, Laughlin Phillips invited my wife and me to spend a weekend with him and his wife at his Martha’s Vineyard summer home. Who did we play doubles tennis with? Art Buchwald and Mike Wallace.

Enjoying Lunch With Art Buchwald—and Learning Something About Writers

Screen shot 2014-07-14 at 11.22.04 AMBy Jack Limpert

We had no staff writers when I started at The Washingtonian so my first learning experience as a magazine editor was finding writers willing to do good work for 10 cents a word. (Ten cents a published word, I learned to say, not 10 cents a word as submitted.)

The Washingtonian’s freelance cupboard then seemed bare and I looked everywhere for writers. The previous year, while on a Congressional Fellowship, I had met lots of political reporters and I tried many of those. The first issues had pieces from Al Eisele, Murray Seeger, Hays Gorey, Marilyn Berger, Tom Foley, Nick Thimmesch, Jules Witcover, Bill Prochnau, Stu Loory, Bryce Nelson, William Beecher, Tom Ottenad, Julius Duscha, Carl Bernstein, Charlie McDowell, and Jim Perry, all writers I had met while on Capitol Hill.

Who Is This Editor They Call Tom the Butcher?

By Jack Limpert

Gene Weingarten, the two-time Pulitizer Prize-winning writer for the Washington Post, occasionally mentions his editor, described only as “Tom the Butcher.”

In last Sunday’s Post column, Weingarten wrote about a speech he had given at Howard University where he talked about his “crippling neurosis bordering on mental illness” and winning the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He said: “As I often do when I am insecure, I sought reassurance from my friend and editor, Tom the Butcher. I explained that I feared I don’t deserve this honor, and Tom said, ‘Wait, is it a lifetime achievement award?’ When I confirmed that it was, he said: ‘It’s fine. Those are usually given out at the point in someone’s career when his greatest continuing achievement is a solid bowel movement in the morning.’”

Becoming a Washington Journalist—and Editing Damon Runyon Jr.

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Damon Runyon Jr. left New York to work for a new DC newspaper.

By Jack Limpert

Getting to Washington: After two years of editing a chain of weekly papers in northern California, I was anxious to move on. The San Francisco Chronicle wasn’t interested (though the interview with city editor Abe Mellinkoff was memorable) and the Washington Post didn’t answer my letters so I changed strategy and applied for a fellowship. They say most journalists applying for fellowships want to change jobs or spouses—I mainly wanted to get to the nation’s capital.