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The FishbowlDC Interview With Daily Mail’s David Martosko

Say hello to Daily Mail’s U.S. Editor David Martosko. He formerly was Executive Editor for The Daily Caller. Before that, he worked for Berman & Company, a PR shop that specializes in fighting progressive activists who target corporations. We must say, Martosko is one of the more colorful people in Washington media. For one thing, he’s kind of a panicky figure. He works at a frantic, relentless pace. He can sometimes be found in Sidecar, the dimly lit basement portion of the downtown restaurant P.J. Clarke’s, where he’s a member but where he won’t be found drinking. He’s also – weirdly – potentially deathly allergic to mushrooms. “The last time I ate a whole mushroom, I wound up with a swollen throat, red splotches in places where itching isn’t all that pleasant, and a very memorable two minutes when I couldn’t breathe,” he told me. “Eating them just isn’t worth the risk. Plus I’ll never have to explain to my wife how I wound up ‘accidentally’ hallucinating after dinner.”

Onto the interview.

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi.

How often do you Google yourself? I haven’t in a long time. I’ll let the NSA do that.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? I can’t think of anything too bad. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the only nice people in the business. Tucker Carlson has unkind words for just about no one he works with. The Daily Mail people are class acts, and their accents make it impossible to be angry with them.

Who is your favorite working journalist and why? CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson. She’s a tough investigative reporter who breaks amazing stories and refuses to be anyone’s lap dog. It looks like her computer was hacked as a consequence, but I’m waiting for her to finger the schmucks who did it. She’ll probably figure it out.

Do you have a favorite word? It’s a tie between Wanderlust and Schadenfreude.

What word or phrase do you overuse? I’ve taken to saying “Cheers!” a lot (instead of “See ya later”) since I went to work for the Daily Mail. But I refuse to say “whilst.”

Who would you rather have dinner with – MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinksi, CNN’s Kate Bolduan or CBS’s Gayle King. Tell us why. Are you kidding? Kate by a mile. She has the whole package, and a voice that I can listen to for more than 5 minutes without drifting off to wonder if I’ve left the oven on.

What is the most interesting conversation you’ve had in the course of your journalism career? Last summer I sat in a hotel meeting room in Morocco, talking with an intelligence expert about the confluence of Islamist factions converging on Northern Africa. I left the conversation with a reality-check about just how out-of-control things are in the Islamic Maghreb – and about how countries we don’t think much about, like Algeria and Mali, are the next growth areas for al-Qaeda. Scary stuff, but so valuable to learn about it from people who live it every day, and who care enough about it to risk getting shot at now and again.

The Earth’s human population is dying out and you must save it. You will spend a romantic evening with either Jodi Arias or Monica Lewinksy? Who will it be? (Neither is not an option.) Monica. She’s more likely to get you on television, and less likely to kill you afterward.

Tell us a funny story from your time as a journalist. Can be long or short. One of my most enduring mental snapshots from The Daily Caller is seeing Jeff Winkler standing on Alex Pappas’ desk, dancing with his pants around his ankles, trying to be a distraction while Pappas interviewed some congressman. The photo wound up as a Funny or Die caption contest.

Who do you think will be the candidates in the next presidential election? Just one on each side, please. Chris Christie vs. Cory Booker: an all-New Jersey smack-down with the loser taking a November polar bear plunge off the Atlantic City Steel Pier.

What’s the name of your cell phone ring? “(bo)ring.”

It’s 3 a.m. and you get up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. Do you check your BlackBerry or iPhone? My Android, yes. It’s already 8 a.m. in London by then, and the Daily Mail newsroom there is going to be pretty busy. For all I know another Ed Snowden has absconded with state secrets. I’m going to sleep through that?

What word do you routinely misspell? Harrassment. See? I just did it again.

What swear word do you use most often? Rhymes with “spit.”

If you weren’t a journalist what would you be? Bored. Or a molecular gastronomy chef.

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.) Jake Tapper, Morton Kondracke, Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D’Souza. Let the Dartmouth College mafia roar. Paul Gigot and Joe Rago can be the vacation fill-ins.

When you pig out what do you eat? Ma-la Chinese dumplings and stir fry chicken with tons of hua jiao “numb peppers” and extra garlic. Great Wall Szechuan on 14th near Logan Circle has the most China-like ma-la food I’ve had since I went to China. And it’s cheap.

If you could influence journalism in one way right now what would it be? I’d make it a rule that every byline and every on-screen Chyron must show the political affiliation of the reporter, pundit or host. If members of Congress have to appear with “(R)” or “(D)” after their names, why not talking heads and beat reporters? People carp a lot about media bias, and we see broad statistics every few years, but there would be value in seeing that information on a daily basis, both on the right and on the left. Is Fox more balanced than CNN? Does MSNBC have any registered Republicans on the air during the afternoon? Let’s find out.

When did you last cry and why? On Father’s Day my 9-year-old daughter gave me a photo album that she put together completely by herself, full of pictures of herself growing up. I’m not a sappy guy, but I had a “Sunrise, Sunset” moment.

What TV show is your guilty pleasure? “Warehouse 13” on Syfy. Lame, right?

What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Tenth anniversary trip to Italy with my wife. We sneaked into the La Fenice opera house in Venice and saw a Verdi opera in a giant outdoor amphitheater in Verona. We also ate our way through Tuscany while meeting people who looked like my great-grandparents, and saw the U.S. Consulate in Florence where her grandfather was Consul General in the 1960s. They have a statue of him on horseback in the waiting room.

What should Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have named their child (aside from North, that is)? Therapy.

Have you ever had a near-death experience? When I was eight my mother and I were in a head-on car crash. I split my forehead open, fractured my skull, and lost consciousness. (Yes, I know: That explains a good many things…) When I woke in the hospital I could describe the outside of the ambulance that transported us. I also knew the color of the driver’s hair, even though he tended to my mom, not to me – and I was out cold anyway. I even told my doctor the color and shape of the car that hit us, because I recalled looking at the car crash scene from above. No bright lights or magic tunnels, but three surgeries and 35 years later I’m still not sure what happened.

Ever been arrested? Yep. Google me. Not proud of it, but it feels like a lifetime ago.

Tell us a secret not many people know about you. I’m horribly allergic to mushrooms. Like land-in-the-hospital allergic. It’s not the cigars that will eventually kill me. It’s the damned vegetables.

What scares you? The thought that before I got sober, I was on the road to absolute disaster. Probably half of institutional Washington (including reporters) drinks too much at least some of the time.

Who is your mentor? Mentor? I’m 43. If I’m not ready to be on the giving side of that equation by now, there’s probably something wrong.

What and where was your first job in journalism? In college I was summer photo editor and an occasional arts critic at The Dartmouth. I really loved darkroom work.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? I’m sure I could come up with something worse if I thought about it, but this month I gave a 60-minute career talk to a bunch of journalism interns, and one of them told me afterward that my fly was down the entire time. It could have been worse, though, since there was a podium.

Have you ever been fired? Absolutely. I tried a few jobs in my 20s for which I was temperamentally ill-suited. I didn’t know myself well back then at all. If you don’t trip and fall when you’re young, you have zero incentive to look at yourself with any kind of a critical eye. And then you wake up at 40 and realize you haven’t grown much.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? My daughter said something silly a few weeks ago that no one else would find funny. But she’s my kid, so everything she says is either profound, Einstein-brilliant or hilarious.

When and why did you last lose your temper? I generally don’t. Certainly not in front of people.

Which movie title best describes your journalism career? For Love of the Game

Who would you want to play you in a movie? Zach Galifianakis. For the beard. And he already knows what it’s like to have a last name that people mispronounce constantly.

Name jobs you’ve had outside of journalism. (Can start as young as teenage years): Singing telegram deliveryman, opera conductor, church music director, HTML coder, junior advertising art director, digital printing artist, talk radio producer, Senate campaign staffer, PR research director, classroom instructor.

Do you have a me-wall? If so, who’s on it? Wall? I don’t even have an office, unless you count the front table at Burke Cigar near my home. Right now I’m MailOnline’s only guy down here, a solo practitioner in DC. But I can work from anywhere and I’m not tied to a desk. That has its advantages.

Who should just call it a day? Anthony Weiner. I know America is the land of second chances, but not for him. He’s like the cat who used up all nine lives because he couldn’t stop himself from licking a live electric wire. At some point, you’re just done.

From TMZ Founder Harvey Levin: You are about to be served your last meal. What will it be? An all-you-can-eat buffet, which might be the only possible loophole in the whole “last meal” thing.

From Reason’s Peter Suderman: You’re given a choice between living a normal length life looking like you’re 28 and a thousand year life in which your age shows the whole time. Which would you pick and why? The latter, presuming I’d be of sound mind for all 1,000 years and not hit with Alzheimer’s for the last 920. I didn’t like the way I looked at 28. And just imagine being able to stuff a millennium’s worth of science, music, political history and literature in your noggin. You could hide behind a laptop after you turn 150 or so, and just work your way through the collected knowledge of humankind. Heaven.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. Make it good. It could live on infamy. What’s the rudest or most obnoxious thing a government official ever said to you, and who was it?

 

 

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