The FishbowlDC Interview With Politico’s Juana Summers

Say hello to Politico national political reporter Juana Summers. At least here in the Fishbowl you may know her best from our highlighting her comical news efforts on Politico‘s Livestream Show. With her signature smirk and black leather jacket, Juana, a Missouri School of Journalism grad, has emerged as one of our fan favorites on the show as she navigates directives from Exec. Editor Jim VandeHei and gracefully tackles otherworldly questions from Mike Allen. She says she enjoys the live show and not knowing what she’s going to be asked next. She also swears that Allen and the other higher-ups never tell her what to wear — “no formal instructions, I get to pick my own wardrobe,” she said in a morning phone interview. We can only imagine that getting fashion tips from Allen could be awkward, but a trip with him to the mall could be quite fun. Juana also gets to say what she pleases on the show. No script. “I’m trying to think of how to be as interesting as possible while still making sense on air,” she explained when we inquired what goes through her head as they’re firing questions at her. In the latest show, VandeHei kept badgering her about when she was going to have her story filed and who was going to edit it — how the hell should she know who will edit her piece, VandeHei? (Somehow we have become arch Juana defenders and take our role seriously. We hope she won’t pay dearly for choosing dinner with Politico‘s Tim Grieve as opposed to VandeHei.) In the summer of 2008, Juana was a web intern for WaPo, where she wrote headlines, cutlines and code for “Sacred Ground” the project documenting the Pentagon memorial for Sept. 11 victims. A Kansas City native, she came to Politico from the The Kansas City Star in November, 2010.

If you were a combined carbonated beverage, which would you be? If I’m on the clock, just Diet Coke.  If I’m off the clock, Jack and Diet Coke.

How often do you Google yourself? I’ve got self-Google Alerts set up, though I don’t check them as often as I should.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor/boss (or vice versa)? Back in college, I was told I should give up on political journalism and just “go back to my sorority house.” You see how well I followed that advice.

Who is your favorite working journalist and why? Jill Abramson from the NYT. I had the opportunity to meet her in ’08. I really respect how she climbed the ranks of a traditionally male driven institution.

Do you have a favorite word? Oscillate. I like the way it sounds.

Who would you rather have dinner with – Fake Jim VandeHei, The Real Jim VandeHei or Politico Pro’s Tim Grieve. Tell us why. And no, all together is NOT an option. As I’ve had dinner with the real Jim VandeHei, I’ll take Tim Grieve. Fake Jim’s love for/obsession with Drudge is a deal breaker.

What’s your funniest TV blooper moment? Being asked during POLITICO Live about the “Santorum campaign bus” and the food we’re provided on the trail.  I purchase my diet of Chicken Nuggets and Egg McMuffins myself and have become quite talented at driving while eating.

What swear word do you use most often? Fuck.

Now for a really serious moment: What is your dream job, money and practicalities aside? If I knew that, it’d take all the fun out of life. But seriously, I’ve got the campaign bug. Love what I’m doing and hope to be doing something similar in four years. Apparently, living out of a suitcase suits me.

What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said to a politician (or vice versa)? I’ve been asked by more than one politician if I’m old enough to be covering their events.

Find out who yelled at Juana on the campaign trail and why…

When you pig out what do you eat? Thai food, specifically Drunken Noodles, are my go-to I’m in a good mood/I’m in a bad mood/because I can fix them.

What is your most memorable “from the road” story? (i.e. covering the campaign trail) My best week on the campaign trail started in Monroe, Louisiana where I got to do a little shooting after Santorum visited a firing range. This included a night with the traveling press on Bourbon Street, and ended on Lambeau Field where I managed to catch (and not drop!) a pass from Sen. Santorum. Can’t complain. 

What is your absolute favorite item of clothing in your closet? We want the fabric, the brand, the store and the price if possible. If it’s a certain kind of underwear we don’t want to know about it. Of course it’s the leather jacket I wore on air that FishbowlDC loves so much.  I purchased it for around $200 from The Limited a few years ago.  Best money I’ve spent.

Pick one: Kim, Khloe, or Kourtney? I admittedly had to Google to confirm that these are all, in fact, Kardashians.  Pop culture’s not so much my thing.

Have you ever had a tarot card reading? Once in middle school.

Have you ever had a near-death experience? My traveling companions joke that covering the Santorum campaign is a near-death experience. I’m inclined to disagree.

Ever been arrested? I don’t live that dangerously.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten on the campaign trail? Mosongo, a Puerto Rican plantain dish. We ate it in San Juan when covering Romney and Santorum. It wasn’t bad, but I’m not sure I would ever order it again.

Tell us a secret not many people know about you. Nice try. I’m actually quite an open book.

What scares you? Speeding tickets. Ellis the Elephant. (Mostly kidding on that last one)

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? I covered the campaign event the day Herman Cain left the presidential race.  I have never felt more disliked than when someone pointed me out as being from POLITICO and someone screamed at me “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!”  I’m proud of the great reporting my colleagues and I did on that story, but could have lived without the rage of a few dozen Cain supporters.

Have you ever been fired? No, and hoping to keep that streak going.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? My companions in the Santorum traveling press corps frequently send me into hysterical laughter.

When and why did you last lose your temper? The last time I got roughed up by local law enforcement officials during a campaign event. But it doesn’t happen often.

Who would you want to play you in a movie? Zoe Saldana.

Do you have a me-wall? If so, who’s on it? Before this week, I hadn’t spent more than a few hours in my apartment since November. Not much on my walls these days.

Who should just call it a day? The Chicago Cubs.

From TMZ Founder Harvey Levin: You are about to be served your last meal. What will it be? Kansas City barbecue.  Ribs on my deathbed.

And this one from our last FBDC interviewewee, Marybeth Hicks, a columnist for TWT: What is the one thing your parents did or said that you swore you would never do or say, but sure enough…? I never thought I would be the tenant who would go upstairs and ask the tenants who live above me to quiet down because I definitely was a night owl in college. But now, I value my sleep far too much and I’m totally that person.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. This one may live on indefinitely. Make it good. Which of your co-workers are you most glad you don’t have to compete against?