12 Things We Never Tire of in the Fishbowl

By Betsy Rothstein, Peter Ogburn and Eddie Scarry

We know you have one more year-end list in you. Or maybe you don’t. But wake up anyhow because here’s ours — the 12 things that never, ever make us want to take an afternoon snooze.

12. NBC Luke Russert’s loud and fratboyish ways. Even House Speaker John Boehner has noted his decibel level and called him “loudmouth.” Though he’ll never get White House Soup of the Day quite right when he subs for Chuck Todd on “The Daily Rundown,” among our favorite moments with Luke this year was when he had a stop and smell the roses moment at a Nats game and took a picture of a spellbinding dragonfly, which he later posted on Twitter. Perhaps more poignantly though was when he covered a Capitol Hill presser and asked House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi if she was too old to remain in the Democratic leadership. The crowd of female lawmakers openly booed him. Pelosi told him he was offensive, even if he didn’t quite get it. Among the most entertaining comments sprang from CNN’s Hilary Rosen, who wrote on Twitter, “Note to Luke Russert: Mitch McConnell is 70, Harry Reid is 73. Oh and Bob Schieffer is 75. Think they should step aside? #NewGuysRule?” The question wasn’t an inappropriate one to raise, as lawmakers themselves had been discussing it out of earshot of Pelosi. Perhaps, as some noted, the time and setting and brash way in which Russert executed his questions were troublesome. Still, we especially enjoyed the commenters on Politico. There was the irate Wendy: “Luke Russert got his ass handed back to him. Any more questions, punk?” And the more sensible Chance: “Reporters should be asking tough, offensive and even stupid questions.”

11. Video journalist Michelle Fields flashing her breasts on national TV to get a job for Fox News. Her large male online contingency didn’t mind it much, either. In the meantime The Daily Caller gave her the axe for being lazy. Somehow Executive Editor David Martosko’s lectures didn’t work? Favorite 2012 memory: There was the January manifesto from a convicted rapist that Michelle showed off on Facebook. But we’re torn between that and the more recent BuzzFeed party, where she unashamedly performed dramatic hair flips as our own Eddie Scarry snapped pictures.

10. Most things Matthew Boyle. The 20-something dogged journo never ceases to amaze. There was the time he insisted that the President of the Free World should allow him over for an interview. The more recent jaw-dropping moment from Boyle came when he fled The Daily Caller for Breitbart.com because he wants to be the next Andrew Breitbart. He started this adventure by taking his own photograph for the site, giving himself the unfortunate look of a triple-chinned Michelin Man. In his opening story out of the gate, he wrote an atrociously unedited right-wing rant about “magic vaginas.” We’re still not sure what those our, except we think they don’t involve Sandra Fluke. It was perfect. And terrible. And because we love Boyle in our own special way, we’d like to kidnap and deprogram him before it’s too late and the goose is boiled. Stick to breaking news Boyle and it’ll be just fine. And whatever you do, don’t stay there long.

9. Inside stories from The Washington Times. Always weird, unexpected, mind-boggling happenings at the ominous building off New York Avenue. Who can forget when former writer Julia Duin publicly accused then-editor Sam Dealey of verbally abusing her by canning her on the very day she decided to bring her daughter to work? She was also reportedly on crutches that day. And then there’s the more recent spate of stories concerning the impending layoffs coming in early 2013. The newsroom has dubbed their CEO Larry Beasley “Evil Santa” for a number of reasons, including recently moving a new sofa into his office while deciding whom to lay off. He also recently displayed a Santa doll holding a Christmas tree with the word “joy” on it. As the journalists await possible pink slips, they’re anything but joyful.

See the remaining eight entries of things that never bore us…

8. Ron Fournier’s Twitter feed. While Fournier is a seasoned journalist, the piece that received the most attention this year was his piece about his relationship with his son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Fournier documented what a terrible father he had been for most of the boy’s life. We were inundated with numerous tweets linking to the genuinely touching article, complete with the hashtag, “#lovethatboy.” We especially love the painstaking retweeting he did of compliments as well as a full-fledged reaction piece to all the reaction he received. We only hope he writes reaction to the reaction pieces for all his upcoming stories. Sure, it’s tacky, but Fournier also spends some of his time retweeting country music lyrics and chronicling his family’s vacations, so it never really gets too boring.

7. Mother Jones and MSNBC’s David Corn’s temper issues, and occasional pettiness. Most of all, his hair, which transforms to a Founding Fathers do when he waits too long to cut it. In March, Corn had a temper tantrum at a Barnes & Noble in Union Station because his book, aptly titled Showdown, wasn’t prominently displayed on the day it released. Somehow Corn couldn’t see the humor in him having a showdown on the day Showdown hit the bookshelves. Pure genius. We also enjoyed him in Tampa, when he couldn’t bear to stay at the fleabag motel known as the Days Inn Busch Gardens and moved to a private condo downtown while the others festered at the Shitland Inn for $46 a night. “Heard a splash in the pool. Thought it was a body, not a swimmer,” he wrote on Twitter at the time.

6. Dana Perino’s Dog Pictures. The Fox News pundit REALLY loves her dog, Jasper. If you looked at her Twitter feed, you’d swear she was an animal expert. the majority of her tweets focus on the dog in various (sometimes semi-pornographic) positions. They’re never even of the dog doing anything amazing or interesting. Just random photos of the hound being a hound.

5. Mark Levine, or as we’ve come to know him for his sassy and demanding ways, Queen Levine. In 2012, Levine dazzled us by writing in to inform us that we had mis-characterized a photo of him in front of the Supreme Court. He was actually checking his phone to break news about the ruling on Obamacare and not, as we had written, being an inattentive guest on David Shuster’s radio program. He gave us his pedigree, detailed his resume and demanded a correction for our “libelous account” of him. After the borderline psychotic breakdown, Levine went underground for a while. He resurfaced on Current to talk about author Ann Coulter. But that was in October. We haven’t seen him since and we’re starting to worry. It is with great hope that 2013 sees the return of her majesty Queen Levine.

4.  Tommy Christopher’s perpetual whooping cough. At least we think it’s perpetual. Each time we’ve come across Mediaite‘s White House Correspondent in person, he’s either wielding his tripodded camera around or wearing a 1970’s leisure suite on television. But he always has a frog in his throat. Best moment: Running into him at CPAC, where, in a raspy voice that sounded as if his throat had caught on fire, he went on and on about the villainous ways of The Daily Caller‘s TV writer Jeff Poor. Christopher has had his bouts with serious illness before, including a heart attack and gangrene on his liver. We’ve wished him well each time. But this is one ailment for which we hope there’s no cure. Who is Tommy without the sweet soothing Macy Gray-like voice to go with it?

3. Angry readers and observers who try to “educate” us on the inner workings of journalism. In a recent absurd tirade, one reader (a journalist) told us we needed to take a walk in the woods and smell some fresh air to reacquaint ourselves with our own humanity (or something like that). Fantastic advice! And another told us seven times in the course of one phone call what Journalism 101 means. When we asked what the purpose of his call was, he replied matter-of-factly, “To educate you.” Oh, thank you! Perhaps next time he or she could offer a more coherent, edited speech that doesn’t reiterate the same point seven times. And we’ll never forget Renee Tsao, the angry publicist at PR Collaborative. She dutifully let us know it wasn’t our job to review the movies she invites us to because, well, nobody else in D.C. media has the balls to call out a grossly stupid movie when they see one, so why should we? After a screening of The Paperboy, to which Tsao had invited us to, we wrote the “7 things you better know before seeing” it. Included was a scene in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron‘s face. Also included was a scene in which Matthew McConaughey‘s character is found tied up naked and nearly beaten to death for sexual gratification. There’s no other way to describe it but obscene,” an impression shared by both The New York Observer and HuffPost, both of which had downer reviews of the film. Memo to D.C. journalists: If you don’t like the movies Tsao invites you to, don’t mention it or else she’ll blacklist you. But we’re not upset. Crotchety publicists are a favorite of ours.

2. When Politico‘s Executive Editor Jim VandeHei goes on a national TV program like MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and refers to Politico‘s number #3 as “Mikey.” That would be Playbook writer Mike Allen, who only allows those who are near and dear call him by this insidery nickname. Makes the famed writer sound like a toddler and extremely special all at once.

1. Anonymous Tipsters. Here at FishbowlDC we have — hands down — the best anonymous tipsters in Washington. There’s an intimate quality among journalists here — much like a small town, everyone knows everyone and juicy gossip is rampant. But not the kind that can easily be shared publicly. So they send us the sludge and we sort fact from fiction. We marveled over the homewrecker who, for days, dropped baseless rumors of two (named) local news anchors allegedly having an affair. No proof. No video. No pictures. Just how could we possibly not be reporting this? And lest readers think we don’t receive our share of criticism, you haven’t seen our inboxes. “Hey cheap ugly bitch…you are a fucking pathetic looser[sic]” was the sentiment of one writer who sent us all-caps hate missives for the better part of a year. That same tipster also told me to “watch my ass.” Apparently cops can’t intervene until a threat of harm or murder is on the table. In October, another tipster referred to Peter Ogburn as an “asswipe.” More recently, another reader wrote in to say that Ogburn is “boring, amazingly boring. So boring that he makes Senator Reid seem like Fourth of July fireworks. Boring.” Apart from insulting us, readers sometimes send us on wild goose chases, telling us that certain editors are toast or that a political reporter is going to work as VP of the Beef Cattle Institute. Publicists have grown used to me asking questions like, “So, is your editor-in-chief leaving the publication?” Or, “Is there something wrong with your toilets?” Sometimes they’re anonymous, other times they’re “AnonymASSES” depending on our mood. But even the ASSES have their place and much of the time we appreciate their candor.

Publish date: December 26, 2012 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/12-things-we-never-tire-of-in-the-fishbowl/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT