The FishbowlDC Interview With Albuquerque Journal’s Michael Coleman

Say hello to the Albuquerque Journal‘s Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief Michael Coleman. Among his claims to fame: Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson once called him a “fucking idiot.” And a foreman once told him he sounded like a “fucking lawyer.” (Other than all that, we’re sure he’s a great guy.)

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? Sugar free Red Bull.

How often do you Google yourself? Whenever my ego needs to be taken down a notch.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? That they REALLY should leave the writing part of my stories to me.

Who is your favorite working journalist? Probably Dan Balz at the Washington Post. The guy is just a dead-on, old school political reporter. No snark, no B.S. – just great reporting, accuracy and insight.

Do you have a favorite word? Real

Who would you rather have dinner with – First Lady Michelle Obama or Bestselling Author and former V.P. candidate Sarah Palin? Obama. Seems more interesting to discuss actual life in the White House than what it’s like to wish you were in the White House.

What’s the name of your cell phone ring? I don’t know. It sounds like a rotary phone from the 70s. That one.

When did you last cry and why? When my grandmother died. Crying HURTS your face. I try not to do it unless I’m laughing.

What word do you routinely misspell? Misspelled

What swear word do you use most often? Bullshit – an indispensable noun in this town.

What word or phrase do you overuse? Absolutely.  Everyone overuses this word. I’m absolutely trying to stop.

What TV show do you have to watch? Austin City Limits

Where do you shop most often for your clothes? Filene’s Basement in DC and Buffalo Exchange in Albuquerque.

Whom do you prefer for daytime talk, Dr. Phil, Ellen, Oprah, Tyra or the women of The View? I can honestly say I’ve never watched an entire episode of any of them. But I dig that part on Ellen’s show where she dances with the audience.

Pick one: Leno, Letterman or Conan? Conan – no contest.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, which public official would you want to be trapped with and why? Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. The Navy Seal training would come in handy for getting the hell out of there.

Who is your mentor? Still looking. Open to suggestions.

What’s the best advice you ever received in the course of your career? When I graduated from college, I was actually torn between job offers at a fancy PR firm in Dallas or a grubby little community newspaper. One of my professors told me to take the news job because I could always do PR later. I have always been thankful for that advice.

What and where was your first job in journalism? General assignments at that community newspaper in Dallas. First two weeks on the job, I interviewed a murder suspect, covered a high school football game, took a ride in a hot air balloon and got kicked off a construction site by an angry foreman who didn’t like my questions about a deadly forklift accident.  He said I sounded like a “fucking lawyer.” I was hooked.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? During the 2000 campaign, I convinced my editors I could cover presidential candidate Al Gore’s airport arrival in Albuquerque AND the subsequent town hall meeting a few minutes later – and many miles away. I was completely unprepared for the Secret Service lockdown of the interstate and arrived after the event had started. I had to beg these humorless Secret Service agents to let me in late. I was clearly suspect, but they let me in after a thorough search.

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy most? Hard to name just one. Probably George W. Bush a few days before the 2000 election. His aides told me I had 10 minutes, but when we sat down I told him I was from Texas and therefore, I should get 20 minutes. He laughed – and gave me 20 minutes and a great interview. Football legend Jim Brown was good, too. He was ridiculously egotistical but I was still in awe. President Obama (as part of two reporter round tables) was pretty cool, too.

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy least? When I was brand new to Washington, Bill Richardson loudly called me a “fucking idiot” in front a room full of VIPs as I was trying to ask him a couple of questions for a controversial story on deadline. The sentiment was definitely mutual, but he called to apologize the next day and we went on to have a pretty good working relationship.

What’s the biggest scoop you’ve ever had? I won a National Headliner Award for exposing corruption in South Carolina’s highway trust fund.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? When I went to see the late, great Greg Giraldo at the DC Improv. He was a brilliant observer of America’s general slide toward idiocracy.

When and why did you last lose your temper? Probably yesterday in traffic. D.C. drivers are colossal jerks, but of course I’m a great driver.

Which movie title best describes your journalism career? The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Who would you want to play you in a movie? I think I’m still qualified to play me.

Name some jobs you’ve had outside of journalism. (Can start as young as teenage years):
dishwasher, busboy, waiter, concert security, shoe salesman, book salesman, house painter, hotel desk clerk. We’re working on a book about that legendary summer in the “book field.”

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. Make it good. Name the first rated R movie you saw and how old you were.

Who should just call it a day? The 6 o’clock news.