The FishbowlDC Interview with NJ’s Jim O’Sullivan

Say hello to NJ Daily’s Chief Analyst Jim O’Sullivan. Over steel-cut Irish oatmeal, I pepper the blond-hair, blue-eyed scribe with questions about his career trajectory, whether or not he’s ever been arrested and what he thinks of Hollywood’s minor obsession with films set in Boston. I got answers to most of those questions, but not all. He has an unusual response to questions he doesn’t care to answer. Suddenly he’s the editor and insists that this intro is supposed to be brief.

The clean-cut O’Sullivan believes in old-school journalism principles and takes professionalism seriously. But back in February he wrote and filed a story with the following nut graph: In many ways, the base warfare is the embodiment of a political reality already apparent in the 112th Congress: despite the president’s sermons of bipartisan optimism, and the likelihood that at least some mutation of is essential to alleviating the country’s fiscal ills, it’s still a place where people like to fuck with each other.  His editor, Terence Samuel, promptly emailed him the offending words in blown up War font. O’Sullivan meant to change that “fuck with each other” part.

O’Sullivan grew up in Cohasset, Mass., 15 miles south of Boston. He has seen all the Boston-made movies and says you can’t believe everything you watch: “They try awful hard, but you sort of have to detach yourself from any local knowledge because otherwise the accents and the high speed chases through the North End render the whole thing pretty unbelievable,” he says in his own faint Bostonian accent. By far the most interesting thing about him, he says,  is his college roommate. “Like how is that not one of your lead-off questions?” he says in a subsequent email, apparently shifting back into editor mode. His roommate at Boston College was Kofi Kingston, a Ghanaian-born professional wrestler and WWE Intercontinental Champion. (Watch Kingston wrestle in a spectacularly skimpy green getup here.)

O’Sullivan came to NJ from State House News Service in Boston in September 2010. He had never lived anywhere else apart from a term abroad to Galway, Ireland. He won’t talk specifics about the interview process in Washington. “If you like covering politics then this is a pretty damn good place to be,” he says, explaining that the publication’s “tight, balanced” coverage of government drew him to the job. His career began at 14 covering sports when a neighbor got him a big break with one of the local papers.

Aside from that college roommate, O’Sullivan has had other brushes with famous people. His next door neighbor in college was “The View’s” Elizabeth Hasselbeck. O’Sullivan was nothing but chivalrous concerning the shoveling of her driveway.

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? OK Cola.

How often do you Google yourself? I did before answering this question, to make sure I was still CEO of Mazda. Dude probably gets some of my hate mail.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? Just about every time I’ve ever had a correction sticks with me and none is a pleasant memory. “I got it wrong” is pretty much as bad as it gets.

Who is your favorite working journalist? My older sister. If my younger sister would stop healing the sick and get into the family business, I’d have to call it a tie. But for now, Kate O’Sullivan (Williams) of CFO Magazine.

Do you have a favorite word? Negative [Meaning he doesn’t haven’t one.]

Who would you rather have dinner with – First Lady Michelle Obama or Bestselling Author and former V.P. candidate Sarah Palin? Organic FLOTUS or Super Bowl FLOTUS? Because if it’s the former, I’d have to say Palin. But the White House spread on Super Bowl Sunday was enviable.