FishbowlDC Interview With TPM’s Benjy ‘Paramananda’ Sarlin

Say hello to Benjy Sarlin, who covers politics for Talking Points Memo, where he is readjusting to life after the 2012 election.

His colleague, Evan McMorris-Santoro, says this about Benjy: “Benjy is a Twitter virtuoso. He needs to stop making me look bad by being so good at hashtagery.” But another colleague, Igor Bobic, jokes on Twitter that he’s a “total dick.” (At least we think he’s kidding.)

Previously Benjy reported on national politics for The Daily Beast, where he was Washington correspondent. Born and raised in New York City, he covered city politics for the New York Sun until its untimely death (though, it’s still in shambles with the occasional zombie editorial). To be truthful, we’re still don’t think we’ve gotten to the core of Benjy Sarlin. But we do know a lot of seemingly useless details.  He has an unhealthy attachment to barbecue and Twitter. “Twitter is like my Kryptonite, both the source of my reporting strength and its biggest weakness,” he tells me in an email exchange. “I get annoyed when I see stupid stuff floating around and if you’ve seen something silly pop up in one person’s feed, you’re about to see it everywhere, only worse. It’s fun engaging with people over these little dust ups, but I think I’m irrationally invested.” On the subject of astrology: “I don’t believe in astrology, but I’m willing to be convinced if Nate Silver posts some kind of chart.” Strange hobbies: He insists he is an accomplished juggler. Fine dining: He wants to dine with George Washington (if he could, that is).

Perhaps one of those most interesting things about Benjy is his name and its weird spelling. “My name is almost uniformly misspelled thanks mostly to those dog movies in the 1980s, even by friends and family,” he explains. “‘Benjy’ was the name of my dad’s closest childhood friend, so that’s how I ended up with the particular spelling. My folks are Jewish and you’re not supposed to name someone after a living person, but at the time I was born the original Benjy was in the Hare Krishne and had changed his name to — I believe — Paramananda Das. Since then, he’s left the Hare Krishne and gone back to his old name, so I’m actually not sure if it’s kosher for me to stick with Benjy. Maybe I’ll change my byline to Paramananda Sarlin?”

If you were a carbonated beverage, which would you be? 

I’d like to think of myself as pre-Schumer Four Loko, but I’m really not hardcore enough to justify it. Let’s go with root beer.

How often do you Google yourself? 

Phsaw, I got alerts for that.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor/boss (or vice versa)?

My first day as an intern out of college, my only task was to set up a device to record a phone interview between an editor and Joe Wilson. I blew it and the whole thing was lost. To the editor it was probably the most minor daily annoyance, but to me I had just screwed up the only real world task I’d ever been assigned about as badly as possible. I was all nerves for a week after that.

Who is your favorite working journalist and why? 

Present TPM company excluded (and really, they are the best), I’m a big fan of Molly Ball at The Atlantic. It’s hard to find good campaign reporting that has a broad national scope but also involves talking to actual voters and she’s amazing at tying the two together. Voters have interesting things to say, really!