Rah! Rah! Interns.
Politico Summer School was held yesterday afternoon at the Newseum. About 150 budding journos showed up to listen to the likes of Politico Playbook author Mike Allen, NBC’s Chuck Todd and White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki discuss the highs and lows of intern life.
Allen, a former House intern, praised the assembled interns, calling them, “the best interns in America.” He co-hosted the event with Emily Schultheis, a former Politico intern who has just been hired to be Ben Smith’s new assistant. Allen introduced the former interns who had made it big.
Todd reflected back to his intern days at NJ before he ran “The Hotline.” He attended the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City. This was in the pre-internet days. As the intern, it was Todd’s job to get papers for the entire staff. He recalled having to go down to a random warehouse in Time Square at four in the morning. . “These were the pre- Giuliani days, it wasn’t exactly safe” said Todd. He had to “literally throw [his] wallet” at the cab driver to get him to wait while he went and picked up the papers.
Jen Psaki was a fundraising intern, though she never mentioned for whom, in D.C. Her worst intern memory was having to pick up her boss’ dry-cleaning, and it wasn’t because it was a menial task. She is just paranoid of driving. She also mentioned memorable experiences she had while door knocking. At one home someone answered the door with a rifle pointed at her. At another a man answered in his underwear. Todd defended the underwear-clad man, saying, “I mean it’s his house. You knocked.”
In the next round of questions, Allen asked the panel to offer advice to the interns.
Todd said the interns he hires are the ones who are “willing to sweep the floors.” No task is too small. Psaki advised leaving a hand-written note, saying people get so inundated with email these days that receiving something handwritten is memorable.
Sergio Rodriguera, House Maj. Leader Eric Cantor‘s chief speechwriter, advised that young people should be cognizant of what they are posting on social media sites. When he’s hiring interns he researches their social media pages when he has a lull in his day. And if you’re dropping f-bombs, he’s not hiring you.
Todd concluded with this suggestion: If you have to put an email address down on the application, it probably shouldn’t be “firstname.lastname@example.org,” your email from seventh grade. Allen had his own advice: When you’re talking to someone “be in the moment, not on your Berry.”
Asked about their schedules, Todd said he’s up at 4:45 each morning. Allen quickly quipped, “At Politico 4:45 is lunch time.” Todd shot back, “I’m just trying to win the sunrise.”
Asked about their news diet, Todd stated that Twitter and email are his personal wires. He said he doesn’t search the web anymore, all the information he needs is pushed toward him. Following Todd’s lauding of Twitter, Allen gave each of the panelists a change to plug their “The Twitters” handles.
One intern asked Psaki about the state of women in politics and journalism. Psaki said she could go on about this topic forever, but one thing she has noticed is women aren’t helping other women. She said that needed to change.
When asked about personal lives, Sergio responded “I’m a single guy, and I date across the aisle.” To which Mike Allen offered a mention in Playbook if any interns met today and eventually got married.
The Review: How Did the Panel Stack Up?
Todd: Our spy said he dominated the conversation way too much. “I want to like the guy, but I tend to have a bias against TV reporters to begin with. I want to meet a reporter in TV who doesn’t think they are the greatest thing ever and understand that most of the groundwork of political reporting is done by print journalists.” (Note to intern: Todd began in print journalism, it’s his first professional love and he is believed to be well-grounded in it.)
Psaki: Our spy says she was “totally endearing. I loved her.”
Rodriguera: He was an “odd selection” for the panel, our spy reports. “It seemed forced whenever Allen asked him a question.”
Allen: “This was my first time meeting Allen,” says our spy. “He is way leaner than I thought. Also, the [Mark] Lebovich profile in the NYT magazine makes him seem like a total robot. This wasn’t the vibe I got at all. He strikes me as a wonk but still very human.” Serge Eygenson, an intern at UPS, is apparently a huge Allen fan. He said, “Start every morning with Mike at 6 a.m., today I’m ending it with Mike at 6 p.m.”
He goes through 10 papers each morning, but nothing compares with the information he gets from Playbook.