From Teenage Gadfly to Politico Reporter

On November 13, Politico reporter Daniel Lippman spent the day with Duke students to share insights on political reporting and our current state of politics.  His visit was sponsored by POLIS: Duke’s Center for Political Leadership, Innovation, and Service and the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy.

Mr. Lippman’s program included guest-speaking in POLIS Director Fritz Mayer’s Democracy Lab class and in DeWitt Wallace Center Director Bill Adair’s News Writing and Reporting class.  He also was interviewed for the Chronicle and engaged in two sets of Q&A’s with dozens of Duke students.

During his eight hours on campus, Mr. Lippman shared impressions on political reporting and how he goes about his work.

His career started somewhat unusually, as he participated in online “Ask the White House” forums, through which anyone could ask questions to Bush Administration officials. Starting at only 14 years old, he asked more than 20 questions, prompting a freelance reporter to write a short New Yorker feature on him.

Mr. Lippman acknowledged that this degree of engaged citizenship opened doors “while also helping me understand that the world of politics is an amazing place, because you can impact millions of people.”

While attending The George Washington University, Mr. Lippman made a hobby out of notifying reporters and editors “in as nice a way as possible” various typos in their articles.  “I probably did that thousands of times,” he said.  Some people appreciated the call-outs.  Others were dismissive.

Mr. Lippman’s pre-professional diligence carried over into his career, as he took on nine journalism internships and temporary jobs from high school until after college, developing his skills and honing his instincts at each step.  He continues to contact people regularly, only this time it’s not to point out typos, but to build professional relationships and cultivate other important contacts.  He sends upwards of 100 e-mails a day (“about 100,000 in the past three years”) and continually expands his network.  “That’s a big part of my job as a reporter,” he said.

As a co-author of the Politico Playbook, a daily compendium of political happenings and other pressing news, Mr. Lippman starts each day between 3:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.  Sleep deprivation has occasionally taken its toll—for example, when he fell asleep while attending a Broadway showing of Hamilton.  “That was the most expensive nap I’ve ever taken.”

Mr. Lippman urged Duke students to maintain an objective and critical eye when evaluating facts, regardless of whether they pursue journalism careers.  “Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, you should know the other side’s arguments.”

He also advised students to speak up for their interests—something Mr. Lippman credits for helping him along his career.  “Advocate for yourself, because you shouldn’t always rely on others to do it for you.”