When Journalists Can Make Easy Money

By Jack Limpert

I once asked a very good newspaper journalist if he was interested in writing the Washingtonian’s back page column. He had written some lively center-of-the-book pieces for us and we always wanted that last page in the magazine to be the equivalent of a great dessert after a good meal. As a bonus, he had a wonderful sense of humor; people who can write funny are not easy to find in Washington.

The note I got back from him:

I have been away, to the beach and to work on an out-of-town story, and am just getting to your letter. Your back-page column, which I like a lot, has had a cranky tone, and I always figured it was you making up for being so benign in your public self. I am really pleased to be considered, but I just can’t take it on.

I will be sorry, I know, when I am not young and pretty any more and am not in demand for minor-league television all the time. Happily, a  portion of the public cannot tell the minor leagues from the big leagues, and I keep getting chances to make speeches for fees that finally are paying off college loans, deferred tuitions, mortgages, and the first good car I ever owned.

In this flush of disorganized travel and self-importance, I am barely getting any work done for the paper. Fifty-one speeches I did last year (all the same speech, too). So, I can’t do it now but would like to be considered sometime in the future.


He continued to juggle his newspaper job, a weekly talking heads television show, and his many speaking engagements, mostly at colleges, until he comfortably retired.

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