For the third time in six years I’ve appeared in a New York Times piece about myself or people like me. Why does the Grey Lady keep doing this? Am I that interesting? As I sit at home drinking a Coke Zero and idly watching “Wild Man Blues,” the 1997 documentary about Woody Allen’s lackadaisical jazz tour, I have to say “no.”
I say that, partly, because I know why I’m increasingly lumped in with the liberal blogger set — we’re all friends, I left the Washington Post over stuff I’d said on an e-mail list Ezra Klein ran — but I’m not sure it’s write. You want an onanistic rundown of my career, to judge whether I’m some lucky blogger or not? Okay.
2000: I graduate from the American Community School in Cobham, UK, and head to Northwestern University. At ACS I’d been the overly ambitious editor of the reviews section of the school newspaper, the Heywood. At Northwestern I ambitiously try out to be a reporter for the Daily. I’m not that great at it, partly because I’m more interested in politics than makes sense for a student newspaper. At a rally for Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign I interview Michael Moore; the Daily thinks the pre-“Bowling for Columbine” Moore is uninteresting. So I take the story over to the weekly conservative paper, the Northwestern Chronicle.
2001: I work my way up at the Chronicle, which is fairly easy, because it’s small. We spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about papers getting thrown out too early by janitors. Over the summer, I intern at the conservative law firm the Center for Individual Rights, helping develop their website and write their reports. I get to write some real stories with the attacks of 9/11 and the outbreak of the war on terror — Bernardine Dohrn, the wife of Bill Ayers, is a professor at the college, and as he tours “Radical Days,” this is a scandal and a problem. I also launch a personal blog at davidweigel.com.
2002: I become editor of the “Chron,” then get my first journalism internship — the sole intern at Campaigns and Elections, when it’s still owned by Congressional Quarterly. I get it in part by freelancing for them to impress a J-School teacher.
2003: In the spring I intern at Money magazine, and write a few short stories but discover that I really, really have no knack for financial reporting — at least not at age 21. (I am aware that Andrew Ross Sorkin was probably redefining the craft at that age.) But I fumble and fail to get a good internship for the summer. My best shot, at Reason magazine — where I’ve been trying to submit stories — is aborted when I lose the internship to someone named “Kerry Howley.” The magazine’s editors assure me it was a close call and let me write a few articles over the summer, but it’s my last lazy summer, a fertile time for reading and less fertile time for reporting.
2004: I accept a job at Liberty magazine in Washington state, but right after I do, I learn that I’ve won a yearlong internship at USA Today, sponsored by the Collegiate Network, the conservative organization that helps fund the Chron. I’m iffy on the idea of heading to DC so quickly instead of making my name somewhere else, but it’s too good not to take; I move there in April. In the summer, during the political conventions, I edit a roundup of bloggers’ takes from New York and Boston — one of the people I spotlight is someone named “Ezra Klein.” I live in Arlington, but come into D.C. when I can to meet other reporters and people with blogs at events hosted by the America’s Future Foundation or by people like Julian Sanchez of Reason.
2005: The USA Today internship ends in September, a bit late, and because I’d gotten more time there — also, because I’m a bit nervous about what to do next — I don’t line up a full-time job. (The most interesting possibility, a gig covering arms control policy for a National Journal publication, doesn’t get past the interview stage.) It’s back to freelancing. I move from a one-bedroom in Arlington to a much cheaper apartment in Fairfax, Virginia, with fellow writers Jim Antle and Jeremy Lott.
2006: In March I’m hired by Reason, full-time. This is when my “professional blogger” career actually sort of starts — I become one of the busiest contributors to Hit & Run, in addition to writing several articles a month and (I am terrible at this) helping edit the magazine. In the summer I do some guest-blogging for Wonkette, and Gawker Media talks to me about working there, but I pass, saying I like Reason and don’t have enough experience. In August, Julian Sanchez announces that a room has opened up in his house. Tired of hour-long commutes to get to the Hill — and this doesn’t count the long dark walk from my house to the metro stop at the end of the orange line — I move in.
2007: At Reason I get the break of my career — the Ron Paul presidential campaign. I get to travel the country writing stories about Paul and the GOP candidates. Andrew Sullivan does me a great favor, letting me guest-blog for him. Back in D.C., I build a good group of friends, mostly because we know each other online and around the neighborhood.
2008: In November, the campaign wraps up I leave Reason. I get a part-time gig blogging for the Economist, before my friends Spencer and Laura suggest I apply to their magazine, the Washington Independent, to cover conservative politics.
2009: I start at the WIndy, as we call it; I travel to Kentucky to cover a gun show, to St. Louis to hit up a conservative conference, and basically concentrate more on news reporting than I have before, trying to break more stories. It’s a lot of fun.
2010: In March, the Washington Post hires me to take my conservative beat from TWI and do it for them, in the politics section. And from this point I guess people know what I’ve been up to.
So, that’s the bio, with as little art and color as I can muster. If anyone wants to rant about the kids these days and how they haven’t paid their dues, I’m sympathetic — I really should have worked harder from 2001 to 2003 to get more local reporting experience. But there’s a lot of hard work behind me, a lot of failures and a few more successes.