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FishbowlDC Interview With CQ Roll Call’s Hawkings

Say hello to CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing Editor David Hawkings. He has been the Daily Briefing Editor since November 2010. He was previously Managing Editor of CQ Weekly for six years. The number of positions he has held in the company is truly a mouthful: He has been the company’s senior editor for legislative affairs; co-editor of “Politics in America,” CQ Roll Call‘s signature reference work on members of Congress; the weekly magazine’s economics editor and its congressional affairs editor; and managing editor of the CQ Daily Monitor, the predecessor of CQ Today. A native New Yorker, Hawkings grew up on the Upper East Side. He’s a Bucknell grad and was formerly a columnist and editor at the San Antonio Light. He was also Rep. Lamar Smith‘s (R-Texas) press secretary during his campaign and freshman term in Congress. Hawkings can hardly believe that he has been a journalist for the past 30 years — but that’s where his heart is. “It’s still a calling,” he says of the journalism profession. “If done right it’s a public service. It contributes to the betterment of the democracy. I’m certainly not in it for the money.”

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? Tab. Because it’s proudly retro, has a sharp edge, a biting taste and isn’t afraid to wear pink.

How often do you Google yourself? It’s part of my getting ready for every annual physical

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? Why didn’t you pick another line of work? (Said to me first, and by me once or twice since.)

Who is your favorite working journalist and why?  Harry Hawkings, the older of our two sons, whose “Caps ‘Round the Clock” blog makes me grateful he wants to be a sports journalist – instead of competing with his dad in the government/political space. At 19 he’s a faster and clearer writer, and a brighter analyst, than maybe I’ll ever be.

Do you have a favorite word? “Oxymoron”

What word or phrase do you overuse? “Deep partisan divide.” But, sadly, there’s no way to avoid it these days.

Who would you rather have dinner with –  MSNBC’s Chris Matthews or FNC’s Chris Wallace? If either invites me on his show, a nice meal afterward is on me. My dinnertime conversation, though, tries to occupy the space between hardball and flake.

You are ordered to go on a road trip to an undisclosed location. You can go with White House Spokesman Jay Carney or Bo, the President’s Portuguese Water Dog. No ones feelings will be hurt. Who do you take? The one whose leaks could be accepted at face value.

What’s the name of your cell phone ring?  Rotary dial phone

It’s 3 a.m. and you get up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. Do you check your BlackBerry? My wife, Betsy, is routinely up at that hour and checks for the both of us.

What word do you routinely misspell? Most of them.

What swear word do you use most often? W.T.F. (as both a question and an affirmation)

If you weren’t a journalist what would you be? Something I could do in bare feet, or maybe in sandals. And no typing. I hate typing.

You’ve just been told the big news: You get to have your own Sunday morning talk show. Who will be on your roundtable? (Pick four journalists or pundits types.) My colleague John Cranford, who writes the brilliant Political Economy column for CQ Weekly; my colleague Christina Bellantoni, Roll Call’s plugged-in associate political editor; and two guys whose online/email columns I always learn from – the GOP’s Rich Galen and the totally non-ideological Fox congressional correspondent Chad Pergram.

When you pig out what do you eat? Coconut cake.

When did you last cry and why? Aug. 1, when Gabby Giffords arrived on the House floor to vote on the debt bill.

What TV show is your guilty pleasure? “Mad Men,” with “Entourage” a close second.

What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Two weeks of body surfing usually at the Jersey Shore, long walks along the beach, longer bike rides, plenty of seafood and white wine and local ice cream with Betsy and our sons. It’s a formula that never fails to revive me.

What is your absolute favorite item of clothing in your closet? We want the fabric, the brand, the store and the price if possible. The strip of faded red, taupe and white paisley silk that launched my bow-tie collection. My mom gave it to me when I was a teenager, and it remains  a staple in my regular bow-tie rotation  in the early 1980s. It’s got a 1950s Brooks Brothers label in it – as well as the name tag of one of her old boyfriends.

Pick one: Will Ferrell’s Bush impersonation or Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin? “So I repeat: Ardilla the Gopher is dead. God Bless America and God Bless this Sizzler, although it would be better if this Sizzler had a taco bar.” Ferrell wins because he’s got so much more good material to work with.

Do you read your astrology? I’m genuinely not even sure what my sign is. Something about a cusp.

Tell us a secret not many people know about you. Remember, oxymoron is my favorite word.

Who is your mentor? Your never forget your first city editor. Mine was Ben Siegel at the San Antonio Light in the early ‘80s. Every day I’m still working to live up to his standards of precision, accuracy, fairness, balance, clarity, dispassion and reportorial depth.

What and where was your first job in journalism? News clerk at the Albany Times-Union in the summer 1978.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? A feature I wrote during that internship misspelled the main name in the story – and several different ways. An editor took my copy (yes, it was typed on paper) and fashioned it into several paper planes, then stood on the city desk (literally) as deadline approached and launched them in my direction while bellowing about my sloppiness.

Have you ever been fired? That editor who talked to me me about finding another line of work came pretty close.

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy most? Talking to Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker was always a thrill, because you had no idea what provocative thing he’d day but you knew he’d always make news

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy least? Dealing with the “message discipline” that has a stranglehold on the Hill today, with so many smart and thoughtful elected officials unwilling to express any thought that’s not in their partisan leadership talking points memo.

What’s the biggest scoop you’ve ever had? What’s the biggest scoop you’ve ever had? My CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing is on the lookout for “scooplets” – insights or tips about anticipated developments that can be gleaned in the morning and passed on to the readers so they might be a bit smarter about what’s happening in Washington, at least over lunch and into the afternoon. So I’ve been pretty happy with the percentage of the Briefing’s predictions that have proved true; we got within pretty close range on the House and Senate vote counts on the debt bill, for example.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? The first time in May that I watched Iman Crosson’s “President Obama on Death of Osama bin Laden (Spoof). “A brilliant video parody for the way it skewered the president’s “no drama” affect and at the same time captured the mood of the country in the days after the Abbottobad raid.

When and why did you last lose your temper? The long-suffering IT Department here at CQ RC knows how often – and answers my plaintive, technophobic phone calls anyway. Thanks to them.

Which movie title best describes your journalism career? “Lords and Luddites,” a really obscure 2006 straight-to-video sci fi. Most of my employers (Thomson in the 1990s, The Economist now) have fancy British pedigrees. And my current path has been all about the transition into the world of blast e-mail and social media and away from my Luddite past (afternoon newspapers, glossy magazines)

Who would you want to play you in a movie?   My dear wife suggests William Hurt. (The lede on his IMDB bio says that while “he seemed destined for a career as a screen legend,” he “never lived up to his promise.”) Oh, well.

Name jobs you’ve had outside of journalism. (Can start as young as teenage years): Other than mowing lawns and doing landscaping in high school, none. How twisted is that?

Do you have a me-wall? If so, who’s on it? That’s a Washington convention I really can’t abide – especially among journalists. Who would want to waste valuable time with the people we cover getting pictures made with them?

Who should just call it a day? Bloomberg. Why can’t that company just keep the billion dollars it’s spending on BNA, then step aside and let CQ Roll Call dominate the D.C market like we deserve to?

From a previous FishbowlDC interviewee, WJLA’s Mike Conneen: Would you rather spend a year on the International Space Station or a year in Antarctica? You could at least get the seafood and the long walks on the beach in Antarctica.

And from WaPo‘s Jen Chaney: If you could be a journalist during another time period, which era would you choose? Probably the sixties would have been pretty interesting to have not been a little kid, but covering stuff. I would have like to cover the south in the sixties is my serious answer.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. Make it good. What does “—30 –“  mean to you?” (Hint: This was a very long questionnaire.)

See a sample of his daily work.

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