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Journalists' Secret Lives
Comments () | Published October 1, 2007
Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times is in the market for a Donald Duck bow tie to go with his tux. Photograph by Jay Clendenin

Political reporter Stephen Dinan is an exception to the Washington tendency toward bland business attire. The Washington Times reporter almost always sports one of his 23 ties featuring Donald Duck.

CNN’s John Roberts fell in love with motorcycles as a kid—he tried making one by attaching a lawn-mower engine to his bicycle. It worked. Years later, Roberts is the proud owner of two Harley-Davidsons.

Post Style reporter Sridhar Pappu grew up in southwestern Ohio, so it’s no surprise he’s a Cincinnati Reds fan. Pappu has set out to collect all of the Reds baseball-card sets from 1969 to the present, and he’s halfway to his goal.

Newsweek’s Holly Bailey is such a karaoke devotee that she has scouted out the best karaoke spots in New Hampshire and Iowa, where the political reporter is spending a lot of time.

Fox News’s James Rosen owns nearly 2,000 Beatles CDs. He says: “The day when there are no Beatles left alive is an unbreathable nuclear winter to me.” In March, he and his wife, Sara Durkin, welcomed Aaron Lennon Rosen into the world.

Politico’s Jeanne Cummings spends hours in her garden to take her mind off politics: “You know you’ve had a good yard day when you blow your nose and peat moss comes out.”

Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News says he’s “a fanatic” about Chip Hilton sports books—the originals by Clair Bee. He’s scoured the world for the 1950s books and has all but the last two.

—Patrick W. Gavin

The Post’s Bob Woodward and veteran political writer Jack Germond play high-stakes poker in a group that’s been going for nearly 30 years. Illustration by Francisco Caceres

Poker Faces: You In or Out?

Every three weeks or so, a handful of political reporters heads to the Capitol Hill home of the New Republic’s Tom Edsall for a poker game. Players include Jim VandeHei and John Bresnahan of Politico, Chuck Todd of NBC, Michael Shear and Peter Baker of the Washington Post, Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, Neil King and Christopher Cooper of the Wall Street Journal, Michael Scherer of, and David Plotz of

“There is a lot of wise-guy stuff and a fair amount of beer drinking,” says Edsall, who provides sandwiches. “I make a lot of nasty jokes. We question each other’s manhood.”

Edsall is a frequent winner, but VandeHei holds the record for biggest single-night win: $900. During the game, Edsall cuts the pot to make back the cost of the food. “I’m always accused of cutting the pot in order to make a profit,” he says.

Edsall started out in another poker group, a weekly game that has been going on for nearly 30 years and includes veteran political writer Jack Germond, the Post’s Bob Woodward, retired Post editor Peter Silberman, and retired Time political reporter Laurence Barrett. Through the years, it has evolved into a close-knit group of men—now as many lawyers as journalists—who rotate homes, play for pretty high stakes, don’t talk much politics, and try to keep the details of their get-togethers quiet.

A source close to one of the players leaked a few tidbits: They used to do a lot of smoking; now anyone who wants to smoke has to go outside. Most of them have switched to decaf coffee. They start and end earlier than they used to. One thing hasn’t changed, according to the source: “Serious is not allowed.”

—Patrick W. Gavin

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn spend time at Porto Bello Farm, their riverfront estate in southern Maryland. Photograph by Erik Kvalsvik

Getting Away From the Big City

Many Washington journalists have done well enough to afford second homes.

Bloomberg’s Al Hunt and his wife, PBS correspondent Judy Woodruff, have a home on a creek in Maryland’s Calvert County, about an hour’s drive from DC.

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and his wife, New Yorker writer Elsa Walsh, have a second home with a pool house in Edgewater, Maryland.

Former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and his wife, Sally Quinn, now a religion blogger, restored a 1740s estate on the St. Mary’s River in southern Maryland for their country retreat. But August often finds them at their East Hampton mansion on Long Island. Former Nightline anchor Ted Koppel—now an NPR senior news analyst—also heads to the banks of the St. Mary’s River.

Matthew Cooper of Condé Nast Portfolio and his wife, Mandy Grunwald, longtime adviser to the Clintons, spend time at a cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. Another Vineyard homeowner is John Donvan of ABC News.

John Dickerson,’s chief political correspondent, spends August at his home in Castine, Maine.

—Jonathan E. Kaplan


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