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Journalists’ Secret Lives
Usually they’re the ones asking about the private lives of people. We turned the tables and asked journalists to tell us about their lives—from their morning reading rituals to their secret passions. By Patrick W. Gavin, Jonathan E. Kaplan
Channel 7’s Beverly Kirk charms her sources by taking them to lunch at the University Club’s Pershing Grille. Photograph by Jay Clendenin
Comments () | Published October 1, 2007

Where to Get People to Talk

If reporters are heading to parking garages late at night, it’s usually to get their cars. Deep Throat aside, most meetings with sources are over lunch, dinner, or a latte.

ABC News senior political reporter Rick Klein chats up sources at Union Station restaurants. “Most Washington residents wouldn’t consider eating there,” says Klein, “so it’s easy to blend in if that’s what you’re going for.”

Mark Leibovich of the New York Times, known for insight and humor in his political coverage, often meets sources at the Pennsylvania Avenue Starbucks on Capitol Hill, Woodley Park’s Open City, and Toledo Lounge or Dan’s Café in Adams Morgan.

The Washington Post’s Al Kamen stays “in the loop”—the name of his column—by taking sources to breakfast at Jack’s Fresh on 18th Street in downtown DC. “Spectacular, heart-stopping cholesterol—food by the pound and cheap,” he says. “No one will ever say they saw you, because no one wants to admit they were also there.” He says he sometimes just threatens to take a source there, “and they’ll tell you anything you want to know right on the phone.”

NBC political director Chuck Todd has settled on the Starbucks in DC’s Glover Park as a good halfway point between the NBC bureau on Nebraska Avenue and his sources: “Plus I never worry about running into others there.” He also likes the Daily Grill in Georgetown because of its large menu, which can accommodate “a liberal vegetarian or a conservative red-meat lover.”

Channel 7’s Beverly Kirk likes taking her sources to lunch at DC’s University Club. “It’s really convenient for anyone downtown,” says Kirk. “And people who haven’t been there love it.”

Washington Post military correspondent Tom Ricks isn’t about to reveal where he takes sources to unearth military secrets, but for “thank-you lunches,” such as those with soldiers who have helped him in Iraq, he favors DC Coast or Georgia Brown’s: “At the other extreme, I once took an Army general to lunch at Juanita’s, an empanada joint in Wheaton where English is definitely a second language.”

Politico’s Mike Allen wines and dines his sources on the terrace of Brasserie Les Halles, in the back corner of Bombay Club, on the deck of Morton’s steakhouse on Connecticut Avenue, on the porch at Martin’s Tavern, or in the bar at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse.

You might find WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi getting the scoop at B. Smith’s at Union Station or Takoma Station Tavern in DC.

Paul Bedard, who writes Washington Whispers for U.S. News, favors DC classics—such as Clyde’s, Butterfield 9, and Charlie Palmer Steak for men and Sonoma, Taberna del Alabardero, and the Hay-Adams for women. All of these might add up to a pricey expense report, but he says, “Nobody drinks anymore, so that helps to keep the tab down.”

—Patrick W. Gavin

When NPR’s Cokie Roberts digs into the Washington Post each morning, she turns first to the Metro section to check out the weather and obits. Photograph by Jay Clendenin

Good Morning Reads

Journalists are among the most discerning consumers of news. So what do they turn to with their morning coffee?

Before he dives into the Washington Post’s A section, Bloomberg News executive editor Al Hunt heads to the sports pages, looking for columnist Michael Wilbon. After that, he seeks out stories by political reporter Dan Balz.

Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift starts her day scanning the Post and New York Times front pages and the Post’s Style section. She looks for Times columnist Gail Collins and checks to see who’s on C-Span. But she calls National Public Radio her “mainstay,” listening as she runs in Rock Creek Park.

Houston Chronicle White House correspondent Julie Mason turns to page two of the Post for Dana Milbank’s Washington Sketch. But only after she checks her horoscope (she’s a Sagittarius) and then President Bush’s (Cancer). Washington editor Ana Marie Cox, former Wonkette blogger, begins her day by skimming Web feeds from the papers and blogs on her Treo. When she gets her paper copy of the Post, she turns to the comics to read Get Fuzzy.

Fortune’s Nina Easton looks for Milbank in the Post as well as Mark Leibovich in the New York Times. But if there’s an article by foreign correspondent Barry Bearak in the Times Sunday magazine, “that’s a good morning.”

NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts wakes up to NPR—natch—and listens throughout the morning. She starts the Post with the Metro section—first the weather and obituaries—then turns to Style’s Reliable Source, Doonesbury, Ask Amy, and, on Wednesdays, Tell Me About It and Miss Manners.

Politico feature writer Helena Andrews says she’s “not the regular Washington wonky reader.” Her first stop is Entertainment Weekly’s online News & Notes. From there, it’s, a celebrity-skewering blog that Andrews calls “quite possibly the most awesomely bitchy and brilliant blog in the history of the world.” It puts her in the right frame of mind, she says, to write about pols.

If it’s Sunday, New York Times political reporter Jeff Zeleny heads first to Tom Sietsema’s restaurant review in the Post Magazine.

New York Times diplomatic correspondent Helene Cooper is the rare journalist who says she doesn’t look for bylines—“except my own, but that’s for a psychiatrist to figure out why.”

—Jonathan E. Kaplan

CNN’s Jessica Yellin goes for comfort when pounding the Capitol’s marble floors. Photograph by Jay Clendenin

These Shoes Are Made for Stalking

Days spent chasing lawmakers on the Capitol’s marble floors can be a challenge, especially for women. The hard marble puts pressure on knees and backs and even makes for slips. What’s the footwear of choice for congressional correspondents?

“Rubber soles are a must,” says Anne Kornblut, who often tracks the movements of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (who wears low heels) for the Washington Post. Kornblut says she’s found a shoe-repair shop that will add rubber soles to her leather shoes.

NPR’s Andrea Seabrook hasn’t worn heels since the day before President Reagan’s funeral, when Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher’s airplane violated DC airspace, forcing an evacuation of the Capitol: “That one moment—seeing the very real fright in the cops’ eyes and one lady’s high-heel shoe lying on its side on the marble floor as I tried to get outside—was enough to keep me in flat soles for the rest of my Capitol career,” Seabrook says. Now she wears black leather flats or sandals.

Ana Marie Cox, DC editor of, also decided to stick with flats after having her shoes’ small kitten heels sink into the ground outside the Capitol during an interview, forcing her to stand on a box.

CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin prefers clogs because they’re good for posture and are more attractive than many other ergonomically friendly shoes. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times favors Dansko’s comfy shoes.

Juliet Eilperin, a onetime congressional reporter for the Post who now writes about the environment, says former majority leader Dick Armey, a Texas Republican, taught her that cowboy boots are best for pounding the marble floors.


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 10/01/2007 RSS | Print | Permalink | Articles