Meet Paul Kane. Although, he probably doesn’t need much of an introduction as his name has appeared in bylines across notable DC publications for over ten years. Paul has covered the inside scoop of politics at the Washington Post since 2007 and has earned an enviable reputation in the industry for fairness and respect. Most recently, Paul will be in Las Vegas attending the Washington Post 2016 Pregame before the first DNC presidential debate. He’ll have an exclusive interview with Sen. Harry Reid at MGM Grand where he’ll step on the same stage as the likes of Madonna, U2, The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen in years past. We were honored to speak with him about his experiences as a DC reporter and the landscape of media and politics today.
1. You’re a veteran reporter of congressional news coverage. What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned in your career so far?
Respect, that’s the thing. You have to earn it, and then once you have it, you have to keep working at it just to maintain it. There’s always a question of do you want to be loved/liked as a reporter or feared as a reporter. I want to be respected. The key to doing that is by being both dogged but fair, treating each side with the same level of healthy skepticism but also up front honesty. The biggest mistakes that I’ve made covering Congress are times when I haven’t properly told sources what to expect in a story. No, you don’t email them the story ahead of time, but they shouldn’t be entirely surprised by the thrust of the story. I’ve made that mistake a few times, and I hate myself whenever I make that mistake. Because it erodes at the level of respect that others have for me.
2. Do you feel like the relationship between politics and media has changed during your time as a reporter?
Oh most definitely. Technology has simply changed everything and made it so much easier for us to be in touch with our sources, but also so much easier to instantly create a stir with a simple tweet. The drive for online readers has also eliminated gossip, to some extent. When I was at Roll Call (2000 to 2006), the venerable “Heard on the Hill” column was the second most feared gossip column in DC, behind the Post’s “Reliable Sources”. Us beat reporters back then fed lotsa little nuggets to Ed Henry and Mary Ann Akers, the column writers while I was there. Fun stuff, like the time I learned that Ted Kennedy played a practical joke on Chuck Schumer the day Bob Byrd’s dog died, telling him the wrong name of Byrd’s dog as he was going to pay his respects — I didn’t write that myself, it was kinda trivial, I gave it to Ed for a great HOH item. These days, there’s less and less of that, as the gossip items are what’s considered click bait and we beat reporters end up writing stuff in the news section that 10-12-15years ago would’ve ended up in a gossip column.
3. In an alternate universe where politics don’t exist (ha), what would you be reporting on?
The PGA Tour. My friends have heard me say this, time and again. I love the Hill, love covering Congress, but it’s exhausting. If I ever take a sabbatical from the Capitol, I’m gonna try my best to convince someone to let me cover the PGA Tour. Golf is a game that is so incredibly mental, it’s just you against the course. It brings out a sense of drama that, well, can only be rivaled by covering the Congress.
4. Would you rather be at a Phillies game or a Springsteen concert?
Today, in this era, Springsteen, no doubt. My Phillies had an amazing run of greatness, five straight division titles, two National League pennants and one World Series win. I went to so many Phillies games at Nats Park and RFK back in those days, when we’d take over the stadium, it was amazing. That said, we’re on hard times now, and there’s only so many tours left that Bruce can make happen. The magic of one of his shows can’t be topped, you don’t know where the night is gonna take you.
5. A 2016 presidential candidate calls you up and wants to hang out for the day. Who is it and what are you doing?
This one’s kinda obvious, because I’m a sucker for the Senate and I went to the University of Delaware. It’s Joe Biden and we’d be on campus at UD in Newark, trading stories about our college experiences and Irish Catholic upbringings, ending the day at the Deer Park Tavern on Main Street, where Edgar Allen Poe spent some time. For what it’s worth, a close second would probably be Lindsey Graham — I’d spend a day in Charleston with him as Tim Scott gave us a tour of the historic places and all the best food. That’d be a blast!