Hotline Interviews Dick Polman, Jeff Schapiro

Some samples:

Dick Polman

    Dick Polman is a national political columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He writes a Sunday print column, and a daily column on his “America Debate” blog. He’s also on the full-time contemporary writing faculty at the Univ. of PA, as “writer in residence.” …

    Where’s your hometown? What was it like growing up there?

    Longmeadow, Massachusetts, an all-white suburb where you were considered weird if you didn’t attend the Saturday high school football game. On the other hand, I did have a cool history teacher who played Frank Zappa records in class. My most vivid memory: I wanted to work on my high school newspaper, but I was turned down. I knew I was doomed when the editors asked me to list my other extra-curricular activities. I told them the truth, which was that my only after-school pursuit was watching Gene Rayburn host a TV quiz show called “The Match Game.”

    What’s your most embarrassing on-the-job moment? (Or as embarrassing as you’d like to reveal?)

    Working as a rookie reporter in New London, Connecticut during Watergate, I went to interview ex-FBI director L. Patrick Gray, a homeboy who had burned scandal evidence with his Christmas trash. I brought a cassette recorder and didn’t bother taking notes. Back in the newsroom, I discovered that the cassette had recorded nothing. And because I hadn’t understood a thing that Gray had been talking about, I remembered nothing. So I told the editors, “Nah, he didn’t say anything new.” Which I suspect was correct anyway.

    It’s 2026 — where are you and what are you doing?

    I’m semi-retired in Asheville, North Carolina, haunting my favorite town’s second-hand bookstores, hiking all the mountain ridges that are deemed appropriate for a guy in his seventies, and shepherding my political blog into its 20th year. And probably writing that if the Democrats can’t finally break their slump in the ’26 midterm elections, they should give up once and for all.

Jeff Schapiro

    Jeff Schapiro is a political reporter and columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He has covered VA campaigns and the Richmond statehouse since ’80, first for UPI and then for Virginia Business. He joined the Times-Dispatch in ’87. Before moving to VA in ’79, Schapiro worked on daily newspapers in LA and NJ. He is also a correspondent for The Economist, writing on Southern politics and culture.

    What’s your most embarrassing on-the-job moment? (Or as embarrassing as you’d like to reveal?)

    The only one that can be shared with a family-oriented Website: Audibly splitting my pants while on the floor of the Virginia Senate, startling a legislator, who asked, “What was that?”

    If you could interview any deceased person, who would it be and why?

    H.L. Mencken; because he’s proof positive it’s possible to have a miserable attitude and still be positively charming. How could one not be interested in a guy who said his epitath should be “As he grew older, he got worse?”

    If you could have any other job besides the one you have now, what would it be?

    The late R.W. Apple’s position as staff bon vivant of the New York Times.

    If you could cover any past political story, which one would it be and why?

    The Versailles peace conference in 1919. Imagine being a fly on wall, watching diplomats in striped pants and spats — sometimes on their hands and knees — literally redrawing the maps of post-World War I Europe and Asia.