Good morning FishbowlDC! Meet our friend, Derek Wallbank. Wallbank was most recently a researcher at CQ Daybook and Maine beat writer for CQ Politics. Before CQ, Derek was a K-12 reporter and politics blogger for the Lansing State Journal in Michigan.
Even after a pretty rough day at work, our boy Derek took some time to catch up with FishbowlDC. He responded to his interview before I even opened my computer this morning. Talk about calm during crisis and knowing how to rock a deadline…
What working journalist do you most admire and why? The journalist I still try and live up to is a guy named Thomas P. Morgan who used to work for a small alternative weekly in Lansing Mich. He covered city hall and used to smoke everyone on that beat. Not just win, but leave people in his wake. Now, Tom’s a smart guy, but I put his success down to the simple fact that he flat out outworked everyone else. He didn’t take kindly to spin and didn’t let someone’s B.S. get in the way of cold, hard facts. I’ve always looked up to him for that.
Among active journalists in the D.C. area, I’m a big fan of Dana Priest, Jake Tapper and my friend and former colleague Jon Allen. Priest because she is an investigative reporter without peer, in my estimation. Tapper is probably the most tenacious questioner in the White House Press Corps this side of Helen Thomas. And Allen, to me, is the best reporter covering Congress full stop.
Proudest moment in your career? I find most of my biggest successes in journalism have happened because other folks decided they had better things to do with their time than chase a story any more.
For example, one night in April 2008, I decided to pop over to a giant block party in East Lansing called Cedar Fest that some folks had thought was going to turn ugly. Most TV crews and reporters buggered off after 1 a.m., assuming everything would be OK, but I decided to stay and watch because I got a sense the crowd was going to get unruly. That night turned out to be one of the worst riots in Michigan State University history, and I wound up filing the final version of my story at 7 a.m. while reeking from tear gas. My paper was the only professional media organization to provide a comprehensive play-by-play of what happened that night, mainly because most other reporters just gave up and went home to bed.
What is something that most people don’t know about you? My wife and I are big renaissance fair aficionados. She dresses up for it, though I have so far managed to not have to wear the dreaded kilt. Even in plain clothes, what better way could there be to spend a Saturday than drinking mead while watching a joust and cheering on your favorite horseman in a loud, moderately obnoxious faux-British accent?
What’s your guilty pleasure? Diet fruity-flavored soda, like diet Sunkist or Fresca. My dad always told me that the orange soda would turn my skin that color, which is just as well I suppose because despite growing up in Miami, Fla., I seem wholly incapable of tanning. Orange glow is the next best thing, right?
If you’re looking for a hardworking reporter with experience in newspaper, magazine, online and visual journalism – including video, consider Derek Wallbank. He specialize in campaigns and elections, politics, education, breaking news and soft features. More importantly, FishbowlDC guarantees that he won’t wear period garb to work…unless you’re into that.
Read Derek’s responses to the rest of our questions after the jump.
What’s your dream interview? Probably George W. Bush, but only if it could be an exceptionally long-ranging interview, possibly conducted over the course of several days. I get the sense that there’s a lot more to his story than has ever really been probed and that it probably needs to be. Also, President Obama’s campaign team stiffed me on an interview during one of his swings through Michigan, so I’d love to get another crack at that one too.
What else should we know about you? The question that tells me the most about the person I’m interviewing is “What’s your favorite cartoon character?” Anytime I interview someone for longer than about 15 minutes, that question comes up, guaranteed. It often happens that the character they name, Batman, Superman, whomever, has a particular trait about them that that person wants or strives to emulate.
That having been said, my favorite cartoon character is The Brain, from Pinky and the Brain, which I’m afraid doesn’t speak well to my personality at all. Dr. Freud would have a field day with that one.