Ben Terris is a political reporter for WaPo‘s “Style” section, and an all around dapper fellow. When he’s not talking politics or hunting boar, he’s busy plugging his wife’s many entrepreneurial endeavors (see below) -just like a good husband should. A Massachusetts native, Terris got his start in journalism at the Boston Globe before moving over to the National Journal in 2010, and then getting picked up by WaPo in December. We caught up with Ben earlier this month and asked him a few questions for the latest installment of our world-famous FishbowlDC Interview:
You’re about to be served your last meal. What will it be? When I was a kid I sometimes daydreamed about being on my deathbed and eating all types of poisonous berries. I wanted to (and still want to) know what they all taste like, and that was the only way I could imagine finding out without any long-lasting consequences. So either that, or the most expensive cheeseburger in the world.
2014 will be the year of the ____? Best American Magazine Writing
If you were a carbonated beverage, which would you be? Why? Right now I’d be a Genesee Cream Ale. It’s cheap, does the job, and pairs well with Jim Beam. I’m hoping, however, to someday be a Heady Topper.
You’re developing a signature scent. What would you call it? Smellin’ of Troy
Who or what inspires you? My wife. First, she’s killing it as a jeweler, then she starts an Instagram-based pillow company (yeah, yeah, insert Portlandia-themed jokes here), and she’s disciplined enough to keep herself focused and working without anyone telling her to.
What’s your favorite band, song or musical genre? My favorite band is The Band. Runners up include Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons, Todd Snider, Phosphorescent and Steve Kolowich.
What word(s) do you routinely misspell? “bureaucracy”
What swear word do you use most often? Most of them
When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? I have hazy recollections of this happening multiple times while visiting friends in New York this past weekend. Even if I could remember exactly why, they’d just be dumb inside camp jokes.
How often do you Google yourself? Probably about twice a week.
If you could influence journalism in one way right now what would it be? The more places that put resources into enterprise and narrative stories, the better.
Ever been arrested? I have not. But I was once held at the Canadian border and accused of ivory smuggling after trying to bring some scrimshaw home from Halifax. I was also once held for hours and interrogated by three sets of police officers after sneaking around a Brooklyn shipping port at night.
What and where was your first job in journalism? After I graduated from college in 2008 I spent 13 weeks driving around the country blogging for Huffington Post. It was mostly an excuse to go to tractor pulls in Alabama, historical blues sites in Mississippi, art communes in Marfa Texas, and scramble around the Oregon coast. But I produced some mediocre writing about 2008 politics, so I guess you could call it a journalism job. My first paid job was at the Boston Globe, where I worked as a hyperlocal reporter–covering the ever-exciting beat of dog parks and bike paths.
What’s your most embarrassing career moment? When I was covering Newton, Massachusetts for the Boston Globe, I was assigned a story documenting what the most popular dog names in the town were. I had to go to Town Hall and request the list. The lady at the front desk asked me what I wanted it for, and I said I was a reporter. She turned around to go print out the list and I heard her mutter to herself: “So that’s what journalists are doing these days.” If you were wondering, Lucy was the most popular name that year.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? I’m generally too terrified of my editors to say anything terrible to them.
Name something every journalist in DC does that drives you crazy. Too many sports metaphors.
Who should just call it a day? Alex Pareene, because he’s a total hack. (Come at me, bro.)
Miley: yeah or nay? I don’t have a real opinion, but my wife says yeah. So I say yeah.