The Case of the Double Byline

By: Harry Jaffe

When Washington Post editors asked reporter Jo Becker to look into how Vice President Dick Cheney exercised his secret power, much of it beyond public view, they figured she’d be a Postie for the long run. They paired her with investigative reporter Bart Gellman. The two produced a series that unveiled Cheney’s behind-the-scenes role as perhaps the most influential vice president in history.

But between reporting the series over the past year and seeing it published in June, Becker jumped to the New York Times, where she joined her husband, Serge Kovaleski, who made the switch last year. Becker finished the story and left the Post at the end of May. It took the Post a month to publish the story.

Becker’s byline appeared on the front page of both the Post and the Times on June 25, making her perhaps the first reporter to accomplish such a feat.

But what happens if the Post’s Cheney series wins a Pulitzer? Talk about an awkward moment. Will the Post fly her in for the blessed moment? Will she explain why talented reporters keep going off to other papers?

This piece originally appeared in the August 2007 edition of the magazine.