Interview: Garrett Graff

Garrett Graff made a splash earlier this year when, as editor of FishbowlDC.com, he became the first blogger admitted to cover a White House press briefing.

Garrett Graff made a splash earlier this year when, as editor of FishbowlDC.com, he became the first blogger admitted to cover a White House press briefing.

In late August, the former executive editor of the Harvard Crimson joined The Washingtonian as editor-at-large, where he edits the Capital Comment section (succeeding long-time DC reporter Chuck Conconi).

He still co-edits FishbowlDC, a gossip blog about DC media. After graduating from Harvard in 2003, the Vermont native worked for Howard Dean's presidential campaign as deputy national press secretary. He served as VP of communications for EchoDitto, an internet strategy consulting firm, upon arriving in DC in March 2004.

PRWeek: How did you get the job at The Washingtonian?

Garrett Graff: I'd been doing some freelancing for them. They liked what I was writing. The work I was doing in blogging led to talks about how to ensure freshness and relevance at a monthly publication in a time when you're competing against people who publish every minute.

Jack Limpert, the editor here, has been at The Washingtonian for 35 years or so, but is always seeking ways to make the magazine better, make it fresher, and ensure it's covering the city the best it can. I think they look to me to bring a younger voice and help balance the competing desires for minute-by-minute publishing and something that has staying power and relevance.

PRWeek: Have you been getting many pitches to cover certain stories since you joined? How have you responded to them?

Graff: It's been basically nonstop. I'm actually in an interesting position in that I'm still new enough to the magazine and the city. My predecessor had been here for 40 years, while I've been here a year and a half. I'm still learning my way around. I'm learning who the power players are and where the interesting stories lie. I'm actually much more receptive to pitches than I probably would be if I were a more seasoned veteran. I'm more easily convinced something is interesting now.

PRWeek: How have your jobs in communications for a political campaign and a tech company helped you as a journalist?

Graff:
I think it's very beneficial for people interested in journalism to spend some time working on the other side, dealing with press professionally. In many ways, my time on the campaign taught me a lot about the type of journalist I don't want to be. You get a lot of less-than-positive interactions working in a setting like that. It does, however, teach you about the press' needs. But as someone on this side now, it teaches you how to get the most out of spokespeople, how to craft what you ask for in such a way that they'll be able to help you.

PRWeek: What sticks out for you about the experience of being the first blogger credentialed to cover a White House press briefing?

Graff:
The big concern a lot of traditional media folks had was that the White House briefing room would be overrun by bloggers. That simply hasn't been the case. Frankly, the briefings aren't that interesting to attend on a day-to-day basis. No actual news really comes out of them.

Name: Garrett Graff
Publication: The Washingtonian
Title: Editor-at-large
Preferred contact method: ggraff@washingtonian.com
Website: www.mediabistro.com/fishbowldc

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