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Kitty Kelley's 1974 profile of Joe Biden has kicked up a surprising amount of dust since Washingtonian put it online to coincide with our 50th-anniversary issue. "The piece captures the essence of Biden—emotional, authentic, endlessly talkative," New York Times senior editor for politics Carolyn Ryan wrote Friday, "but is also infused with a 1970s ethos and atmospherics that make it an artifact of an earlier journalistic era."

That earlier era can be glimpsed especially well in a passage in which Kelley documents a meeting between Biden and two fellow senators, William Proxmire and Thomas Eagleton. Biden, Kelley writes, tells Eagleton "a joke with an anti-Semitic punchline and asks that it be off the record."

A Biden spokesperson did not reply on the record when Washingtonian asked whether the vice president remembered what the joke was. The remark "was kept off the record," Gabrielle Bluestone noted for Gawker, in a piece summarizing the "The Best Parts of a Very Sexual, Very Horny, Very Good Interview."

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Posted at 01:59 PM/ET, 10/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()

Longtime Washington Post columnist Al Kamen plans to retire, National Desk editors told staffers in a memo Friday. Kamen's "In the Loop" column has run for 23 years. His last column is scheduled for October 9. Here's the memo.

There’s no way to dress this up: Al Kamen is retiring from The Washington Post. This news may bring cheer to members of congressional delegations headed overseas and others who wish to keep their foibles and excesses out of the public eye, but it saddens us deeply. Kamen is a Post legend, a Washington institution and a pretty funny guy to have around.

For nearly 23 years, he has written “In the Loop,” the indispensable guide to official Washington. This effort started as a temporary assignment to chronicle the launch of the Clinton presidency. It was thrillingly titled “In Transition.” Deploying his sometimes ouch-inducing wit and the delicious intel provided by his extensive contacts, Kamen turned the column into a Washington must-read. One of Kamen’s old friends, a guy who also likes to identify himself by his last name, wrote this to him: "If you step back for a moment, your column in several ways foreshadowed the Internet age, and Facebook and Twitter - short, informed blasts of news, items pithy and personal, a little sarcastic and knowing of the absurd and conflicted ways of Washington." That friend would be Woodward.

Kamen did more than tell readers who was up, who was down and who was likely to win that plum job. He chronicled seemingly every dubious “codel” and got more than a few of them canceled from sheer embarrassment. He even shook the government of Japan when in 2010 he wrote that the “hapless” and “increasingly loopy” Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was the biggest loser at a Washington summit. “Loopy” suddenly became the popular phrase in Japan and Hatoyama was forced to concede to the Japanese Diet: "As The Washington Post says, I may certainly be a foolish prime minister." He resigned within weeks.

Kamen, who began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News after graduating from Harvard, joined The Post in 1980. He assisted Woodward and Carl Bernstein in writing “The Final Days” and then Woodward and Scott Armstrong in writing ”The Brethen.” Before starting “In the Loop,” Kamen covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. As he frequently noted, he was with Secretary of State James Baker in Mongolia when Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait upended Baker’s plans to hunt endangered Argali sheep—the kind of detail that would be the hallmark of his column for more than two decades.

His last column will appear Oct. 9, but Kamen’s impact on Washington reporting and this newspaper will live on. There will be a caking on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 3 pm — please join us to congratulate Al for 35 years of service to The Post.

Cameron Scott Alan

Posted at 03:52 PM/ET, 10/02/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()

The New Republic's new issue features a date that might startle subscribers who remember when it was a sort-of weekly, then a sort-of biweekly, and have gotten used to its post-shakeup print schedule of ten times per year. "Fall 2015," the new issue reads.

That's not an indication of any further reductions, New Republic Editor-in-Chief Gabriel Snyder tells Washingtonian in an email. The print magazine still prints ten times per year, he says. This issue, says TNR spokesperson Erika Velazquez, is simply "a special issue focused on Higher Education in between our monthly issues." The mag's November issue will be on stands October 13, Snyder says.

Posted at 10:36 AM/ET, 09/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph by Giulio Napolitano via Shutterstock.

Officials expect more than 200,000 people to flow into Washington to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis this week. But even for people whose schedules don't allow them to knock off work and try to get into one of the pontiff's public appearances, there will be ways to track Francis's three-day stay in DC. Francis's first visit to the United States will be trackable through a number of apps and other mobile services.

Text alerts:

Much has already been made of the dozens of road closures, security barricades, detours, and truncated bus routes that Francis's presence will cause. But on the chance there are additional inconveniences, several agencies offer text-message alerts for (hopefully) timely updates. Metro, which is expecting a severe crush at the Red Line's Brookland station tomorrow, when the pope celebrates a canonization Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, offers text- and email-based alerts. The US Park Police also offers a text-update service, which may come in handy for the pope's parade from the White House down the National Mall, and for the thousands expected to gather outside the Capitol on Thursday when Francis addresses a joint session of Congress.

Pope emojis:

It's 2015. Of course there are adorable little phone graphics commemorating the pope's visit. There is a set of Francis-in-America-themed emjois available for both iOS and Android devices. The ten-image set covers the pontiff's entire US itinerary, though there are a few DC-specific icons with Francis drawn in front of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Additionally, Twitter is stamping all tweets with the hashtag #PopeinDC with a little Capitol Dome emoji.

The Pope App:

Francis's predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, was the first pontiff to get on social media, but Francis is a digital superstar. It only makes sense, then, that his movements can be followed on the Holy See's official mobile app, which is literally called the Pope App. Among its features: headlines from the Vatican's state media, Francis's latest tweets, and live video streams of the pope's events, which might come in handy for people who want to see Francis celebrate Mass or address Congress, but can't make it in person. The Pope App is available on iOS and Android platforms, and can be set in English, Italian, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, but not Latin.

Posted at 11:42 AM/ET, 09/22/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()

OK, what's your Secret Service code name? Are you Blitzle, or Omanyte, or Poochyena, or maybe Dusknoir?

After CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Republican candidates Wednesday night how they'd like the Secret Service to refer to them if elected, Philip Bump, a writer for the Washington Post political blog The Fix, sprang into action, creating a code-name generator that, according to the tracking service SharedCount, was shared about 5,000 times on Twitter and Facebook.

This type of article is not new to the Post. In April, the organization helped readers create their own Hillary Clinton slogans using her official campaign typeface. In January, you could spit out random Joe Biden-style compliments with the click of button. In April 2014, you could help name Chelsea Clinton’s baby by answering some introductory probing questions—an idea recycled from a July 2013 post about the royal baby.

And the Post is hardly the only news organization to embrace these generators. In March 2014, then Slate editor David Plotz noted unenthusiastically that the publication's most popular story in history was its John Travolta name generator, which was posted following the actor’s epic pronunciation blunder. And remember its Carlos Danger name generator? Or its Joe Flacco one? Or its Rick Perry-Ronald Raven one? In July, Mother Jones and Time both unveiled Donald Trump insult generators. The New Republic followed with a Trump compliment generator the next day.

Bump, who also helped create both the Hillary Clinton slogan maker and the Joe Biden compliment creator, likes these interactive stories for a few reasons. For one thing, he says, they’re easy to make; Bump, a self-taught coder for two decades and a former designer for Adobe, says the piece only took a total of three hours to build.

But more important, they also help turn otherwise dry, political stories into something interactive.

“I see part of my mandate as making political news and data accessible or putting politics into a broader context,” Bump writes in an email to The Washingtonian. “There were a lot of ways to go with the code name aspect of the debate, but this seemed like one that would actually get people to take interest.”

In other words, these generator posts get readers clicking on stories that might otherwise briefly fascinate only political journalists on Twitter.

Bump didn't know what kind of traffic the story got, and the Post wouldn't say. "My primary gauge for these things is how often they pop up in my Twitter feed, and that's happening with some regularity," Bump says. He was "pleasantly surprised with how it did. I thought that people would not be interested in a tie-in to a brief moment in the third hour of a presidential primary debate."

Posted at 11:27 AM/ET, 09/18/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph by Flickr user Max Borge.

The Washington Post could get tens of millions more digital subscribers starting Wednesday with the announcement from the newspaper that it is now a perk included with Amazon Prime. The move does two big things for the Post: First, it ties the news organization even closer to owner Jeff Bezos's other company. Second, it continues the Bezos-owned Post's push to become a nationally dominant newspaper by turning Amazon customers into Post readers.

Amazon Prime members will get free access to the Post's national digital edition for six months, with an option to continue for $3.99 per month, according to a newspaper press release. Digital-only national subscriptions—which exclude local news on mobile platforms—have a standard rate of $99 per year.

Amazon doesn't disclose publicly how many Prime members it has, but Mark Mahaney, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, told CNBC last week there could be as many as 80 million paying for the $99 annual service, which also includes discounted express shipping, streaming video and music, and photo storage.

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Posted at 09:59 AM/ET, 09/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()

Washington Post associate editor Anne Kornblut will leave the paper for a job at Facebook, where she'll be director of strategic communications. Kornblut oversaw the paper's coverage of Edward Snowden's NSA revelations, which won a public service Pulitzer Prize in 2014. She joined the Post in 2007 after stints at the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the New York Daily News.

Here's the memo, from national editor Cameron Barr:

Bad news like this doesn’t stay secret for long, so let me make it official: Anne Kornblut, an exceptional journalist and a treasured colleague, is leaving The Washington Post to become Director of Strategic Communications at Facebook.

This is surely an old-media-blossoms-into-new-media moment. We can take heart that a colleague with such an accomplished background as a reporter and editor is joining the leadership of a social media company that serves as a conduit for news for an amazingly large audience. We can also console ourselves by remembering that she and Jon will be able to continue residing on the same coast and to maintain the rewarding family life for Arlo and Audrey that they have enjoyed for the past year and a half.

The crowning accomplishment of her time in the newsroom was her stewardship of our coverage of the Snowden documents, an effort that demanded rigorous, high-stakes line editing and coordination among reporters, researchers, graphic artists and editors across the newsroom. The result was a series of stories that educated Americans about official intrusions into the privacy of their communications and won a Pulitzer Prize for public service. As deputy National editor since April 2013, Anne helped guide some of our best work, such as Carol Leonnig’s probe of the Secret Service and our unstinting reporting about the ACA rollout. She also honed her capacities for empathetic listening, adroit decisionmaking and long-term planning, qualities that have helped this newsroom prosper and will undoubtedly aid her in her new role.

Anne came to The Post in 2007 to cover Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, an experience that led to her 2009 book about women in politics, "Notes from the Cracked Ceiling." She covered the first years of the Obama White House and became a deputy politics editor in 2012. Before coming to The Post, Anne worked at the New York Times and before that the Boston Globe, where she won the 2001 Aldo Beckman award for overall White House coverage.

Anne has asked the we spare her the ritual of caking, but we will find an opportunity or two to celebrate her success at The Post and wish her well at Facebook the next time she visits Washington. In the meantime, please be sure to friend our friend so we can all track what will be a shining run at a company that on a good day draws a billion users.


Posted at 12:32 PM/ET, 09/15/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()

Image courtesy Associated Press.

Brett Zongker, who covered Washington's arts scene for 11 years for the Associated Press, announced Monday that he's leaving the wire service for a public-relations job at George Washington University. Hacks become flacks with some regularity—see Washington Post associate editor Anne Kornblut's departure for Facebook—but Zongker's job news continues a pattern of the AP shrinking its team that covers local DC affairs.

There are no apparent plans to hire a replacement. Instead, local arts coverage will be taken up by Ben Nuckols, AP spokesman Paul Colford tells Washingtonian in an email. But Nuckols is already assigned to cover the District government, and does not appear to be giving up his regular beat.

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Posted at 11:57 AM/ET, 09/15/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()

As with any appearance by a high-ranking politician on a late-night talk show, Vice President Joe Biden's interview Thursday night on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert is plastering the internet today. But the content of Biden's appearance—a raw, deeply emotional interview focusing on he's coped with the death of his son, Beau—leaked more than four hours before the Late Show aired.

Biden's and Stephen Colbert's conversation was supposed to be under wraps until 11:35 PM, when the show airs, in accordance with embargoes issued by CBS and the White House. New York Times reporter Michael D. Shear, who's been doing pool coverage of Biden's trip this week to New York, had a seat in the Ed Sullivan Theater and prepared a dispatch to send to the rest of the White House press corps at 11:35.

But Politico was up with a summary of Biden's interview at 7:10 PM, featuring some newsy quotes from the vice president about his trepidation toward running for president one more time. A few minutes later, the White House lifted its embargo, forcing Shear to pound out his report to enable a raft of premature Late Show recaps.

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Posted at 03:25 PM/ET, 09/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Marty Baron and Sally Quinn.

Attention the New York Times, the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Donald Trump: You blew a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Wednesday night. The entire Washington Post national politics team was munching on Caesar salad and expertly carved ham at Sally Quinn's Georgetown house for hours, and not a thing got filed. "I was a little worried that there was going to be a major story breaking while the entire Post national staff was gathering and drinking wine," says Matea Gold.

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Posted at 02:12 PM/ET, 09/10/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()