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The FishbowlDC Interview With WaPo Express’s Clinton Yates

Say hello to WaPo Express‘s unassuming Local News Editor Clinton Yates. He writes the snappy new Lunchline feature that highlights stories of the day. The feature began in November. “The idea is to get eyeballs on the Post, Slate, Foreign Policy, The Root, Capital Business, and Express Night Out,” he says. Yate’s favorite writer is easily Christopher Hitchens. “Just a smart guy who isn’t afraid to say what he thinks,” he says. “He’s also not afraid to be wrong, which is something I admire.” The 29-year-old journo was working in radio but landed  the Express job four years ago. He says it’s “a little bit of a dream job scenario to go to work for the paper I grew up reading.”

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? Probably Fanta.

How often do you Google yourself? I have a Google alert for my name.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? Huh. That’s hard to say. Probably the worst thing when I openly told an editor that an idea of theirs was idiotic. That was that. You know, respectful. Nobody was shocked. I’m generally not afraid to tell people what I think, but not a fan of being mean to people for no reason.

Who is your favorite working journalist? I would likely say Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports. A lot of what he does revolves around race, politics, culture in America. He tells it how it is.

Do you have a favorite word? Tremendous.

Who would you rather have dinner with – First Lady Michelle Obama or Bestselling Author and former V.P. candidate Sarah Palin? I would like to have dinner with either one of them, but I’d pick Palin because her food choices would be more outlandish.

What’s the name of your cell phone ring? Vibrate.

When did you last cry and why? It was when I saw “Where the Wild Things Are” because I love that book as a little kid and reminded  me a little bit of my own life.

What word do you routinely misspell? Illegal.

What swear word do you use most often? Fuck.

What word or phrase do you overuse? “Situation” and that was before Jersey Shore came out. I’ve had to wane myself off it. For example, What’s up dude, situation? Do you like The Situation? I wouldn’t say I like him. I respect his hustle.

What TV show do you have to watch? TV Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption with Tony Kornheiser. They come on back to back on ESPN.

Where do you shop most often for your clothes? On the Internet.

Whom do you prefer for daytime talk, Dr. Phil, Ellen, Oprah, Tyra or the women of The View? Well considering I’m at the office for most of those, what I actually like is “Street Smarts” with Erin Burnett.

Pick one: Leno, Letterman or Conan? Letterman.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, which public official would you want to be trapped with and why? Rahm Emanuel because he could probably get us off the island. Cause he’s loud.

Who is your mentor? Mike Wilbon. I met him while I was in college and he’s part of the reason why I stayed interested in journalism.

What’s the best advice you ever received in the course of your career? It was from Wilbon. He told me that no matter what it may seem, there was place in America for the voice of people like me. Specifically black men. Specifically black men of a certain amount of intellect. Meaning non rappers, actors or athletes. Wilbon told me that not all athletes, musicians and actors are otherwise without intellect, but success on writing/journalistic talent alone as a black man in America is not easy.

More on Yates…

What and where was your first job in journalism? My first job for the media was working at a radio station in Cincinnati. Interned in college for George Michael, formerly of the George Michael sports machine. The TV station was WRC NBC Channel 4.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? I don’t know I’ve made mistakes. I’ll probably make more. Stupid stuff – caption with wrong name because of random oversight.

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy most? Back in the radio days, I got to interview Jason Schwartzman (the actor) of Phantom Planet before a show. This was a big deal in my world at the time and I’ll never forget how short he was.

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy least? I was a sports reporter in Ohio. There were a lot of coaches who were the most boring individuals talking about games no one cared about. I was writing something about Local CSA’s, talking to a farmer about how they farm. Not exactly riveting. I almost fell asleep while I was talking to him.

What’s the biggest scoop you’ve ever had? I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever had any real scoops in the business. As an editor, it’s not what my job has been.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? Listening to Jay Mohr impersonate Christopher Walken and Tracy Morgan while filling in on the Jim Rome Radio show. That dude is funny as hell.

When and why did you last lose your temper? On Christmas Eve I got pretty pissed at some guy at Target. He was being a huge jerk about customer service. I had a simple question and he was acting like I was trying to pull his teeth off. I definitely raised my voice  aggressively. I wanted to know if they had the ESPN for 30 Series for my dad. He refused to answer my question. I was pretty hot.

Which movie title best describes your journalism career? I’d say “Life is Beautiful.” It’s what I enjoy about journalism – the stories of people on Earth.

Who would you want to play you in a movie? I wouldn’t mind if Derek Luke played me. (The actor who played Antwon Fischer).

Name some jobs you’ve had outside of journalism. (Can start as young as teenage years): Camp counselor. Bank teller. Ice cream scooper. Employee at Abercrombie and Fitch in Georgetown.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. Make it good. What shoes are you wearing right now as this interview is taking place?

Who should just call it a day? Harrison Ford. Great roles. No love lost. But count your money, relax, watch our movies. I love him to death, but he just doesn’t need to make any more movies.

Photo credit: David Peter Clark, Onomonomedia, LLC

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