He now wakes up to dozens of e-mails a day from readers: “It’s a fishbowl.”
He does chats on Washingtonpost.com: “It’s a minefield.”
He’s expected to fill time on WTWP, the Post’s radio station: “I try not to say ‘ummmm.’ ”
To shake off the dust from nine years as an editor, he asked to dive into the news in his first month. He traveled with President Bush to Vienna, Budapest, Omaha, and Waco, but didn’t meet the President.
In choosing Abramowitz for one of its premier jobs, the Post has reached for a Washington insider. He is solid and familiar to the Post’s top brass. Buddies call him “Bram.” But there’s a bit of risk, too.
“I had not written a story in nine years,” he says. “It’s also my first time covering a big Washington beat.”
With Bush generating foreign news, Abramowitz is especially right for the job, as he was raised in a diplomatic family: “I’ve been living and breathing the stuff since I was three.”
Abramowitz, 42, was born in Hong Kong, when his father, Morton Abramowitz, was stationed in the Far East. His father was ambassador to Thailand and Turkey and also held State Department posts in DC; he served under Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Bush 41. His mother, Sheppie, worked as an advocate for refugees and was well known for showing up at diplomatic events wearing great hats.
Abramowitz took the private-school route through Sheridan and St. Albans to Harvard. He graduated, landed a summer internship with the Post, and never left.
“It’s fun working for the hometown paper,” he says.
It’s also familiar territory for Ivy Leaguers, who populate the Post’s upper echelons.
Abramowitz climbed from covering business to city affairs to a stint in Chicago to covering Maryland politics. He broke stories about DC’s impending bankruptcy and the pension scandal under Maryland governor Parris Glendening.
Shifting to editing, he started on the Maryland desk, then rose to national editor.
“He was the anchor of the desk,” says political editor John F. Harris. “It gave a great sense of comfort to other editors. Everyone came to rely on his judgment.”
Last year, when the top Metro editing job came open, Abramowitz went for it. He lost out to Robert McCartney, which opened up other options.
Here’s what happened:
Harris, after covering the Clinton White House and writing a book, switched from writing about national politics to editing. Jim VandeHei moved from the White House beat to Harris’s political spot. That left an opening at the White House.
Says Abramowitz: “I was looking around at age 42 and realizing if I didn’t go back to reporting soon I might lose the ability.”
The Kremlinological aspects of the changes: Harris, who joined the Post with Abramowitz in 1985, was his subordinate but is now his boss. The other White House correspondents, Peter Baker and Michael Fletcher, reported to Abramowitz; now they are his equals. And then there is Susan Baer, Abramowitz’s wife: She now is an editor at The Washingtonian after nearly two decades covering DC for the Baltimore Sun.
Is the White House beat a good career move? Probably. Expect Abramowitz to return to the editing ranks at a higher rung. But don’t expect him to follow editor Len Downie’s model of political purity by not voting. Will Abramowitz cast a ballot? “Oh, yeah.”