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The FishbowlDC Interview With ABC7′s Van Cleave


Kris Van Cleave may be the first person to ever send his responses to our lengthy FBDC Interview off a smartphone. We noticed the “Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4GLTE smartphone” signature on his email and thought 1. Who answers this many questions on a phone?!” 2. Who has a 4GLTE?! He told us he didn’t actually answer all of the questions on his phone, but said his responses “may benefit from a spell check.”

Van Cleave is going on six years as a general assignment reporter for ABC7/WJLA. He has received multiple awards over the span of his journalism career, including a Regional Edward R. Murrow Team Coverage Award for reporting on the the 2009 Metro collision.

Before coming to D.C., Van Cleave was a reporter in San Diego and Colorado Springs. As for his personal life, he kept it brief: “Not married, no kids.” He didn’t always want to work in TV news. “I thought maybe I could be a sports announcer,” he said, “but the desire to eat overwhelmed that.” His family moved to LA before high school and an anchor, Ross Becker, took him under his wing and he remains a close friend and mentor to this day.

Van Cleave said watching the media cover the 1993 Southern California wildfires and the 1994 Northridge earthquake sold him on TV. His dream job: to be a network correspondent. But he says he has a “wonderful situation” at WJLA.

Let’s begin.

If you were a carbonated beverage, which would you be?

Diet Barq’s…plenty of bite, but fewer calories.

How often do you Google yourself?

Hourly. I also spend time each day looking for a unicorn.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor/boss (or vice versa)?

“Wow (boss who won’t be named), you’re the same age as my parents!”

Who is your favorite working journalist and why?

Martha Raddatz—she’s one of my news heroes. Her reporting is fearless — she goes to some of the most dangerous places on earth time and again. Her coverage of U.S. troops abroad and here at home has been compelling, heartfelt, and powerful. Plus, she’s gracious and more than willing to help a younger reporter get better.

Do you have a favorite word?

Schweinefleisch! Hard to work into a sentence, but fun to say.

Who would you rather have dinner with – FNC’s Bill O’Reilly, NBC’s Brian Williams or ABC’s Diane Sawyer? Tell us why.

Diane. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her yet. Brian Williams would be a close second. When I was in college he let me shadow him for part of a day. I’ve always been grateful for that.

The Earth’s human population is dying out and you must save it. You will spend a romantic evening with either CNN’s Candy Crowley or FNC’s Greta Van Susteren (significant others will understand). Who will it be?

How quickly are we dying out?

What swear word do you use most often?

The one that starts with F and its many variations.

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.)

Let’s make Sunday morning TV something to see…Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow. Perhaps we could have Pugil Sticks?

On a serious note for a moment, if you could have dinner with a person who has died, who would it be?

Either of my grandfathers. I never got meet them.

Who is your favorite Boybander and why? (Ezzy, Hazy, Weigel, Attackerman, Beutler)

What’s an Ezzy? Just kidding. I enjoy Attackerman’s Wired blog a lot.

When you pig out what do you eat?

Pizza and/or chocolate cake.

What is your absolute favorite item of clothing in your closet? We want the fabric, the brand, the store and the price if possible. If it’s a certain kind of underwear we don’t want to know about it.

Do I have to pick just one? I’m a bit of clothes horse so this won’t be easy. My first of adult pair of cowboy boots — brown leather Dan Post boots that were a gift maybe 15 years ago. (My mother still has my very first pair of cowboy boots, but I wasn’t even walking yet so those don’t count.) Or, this blue gingham dress shirt that has elicited quite the response from viewers—“Picnic table shirt,” “HeeHaw shirt;” a friend dubbed it “power gingham.” It’s from T.M Lewin, an online sale purchase, and was probably $50. (Shirt pictured in action at right.)

Pick one: Mad Men, The Newsroom or True Blood.

The Newsroom by default. I never got into True Blood and can you believe I’ve never seen Mad Men? I was given the first three seasons on DVD as a gift and keep meaning to watch.

Have you ever had a tarot card reading?

Nope.

Have you ever had a near-death experience?

I was in a TV live truck that was hit by a drunk driver. The accident sent us veering across four lanes of a Southern California freeway, and launched us over a sloping median, into the on ramp, down an embankment and smack into a retaining wall, which probably saved us from rolling the rest of the way. That night I learned that while a live truck actually flies okay if you get it in the air, the landings are ROUGH.

Ever been arrested?

No.

Tell us a secret not many people know about you.

I played trombone in middle school… not terribly well.

What scares you?

Clowns. Polyester. Spelling.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment?

At Rebecca Cooper’s Capitol CAREoke this year my colleague Kendis Gibson picked the song for Pamela Brown, Natasha, him and me… Justin Bieber. He refused to wear the Bieber Wig. You can guess where it ended up. And of course…its on the YouTubes.

Have you ever been fired?

Once as an intern… a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes?

A couple weekends ago at dinner with a big group of friends laughing about people’s “teachable moments.” I have some witty friends.

When and why did you last lose your temper?

I don’t really lose my temper, but probably the last time USC (Southern California, thank you) lost a football game.

Who would you want to play you in a movie?

Ryan Reynolds.

Do you have a me-wall? If so, who’s on it?

What’s a me-wall?

Who should just call it a day?

Me, after I answer all these questions!

Breakfast food of choice? Don’t say coffee.

I don’t drink coffee, so that’s easy enough. Breakfast is vanilla Greek Yogurt and some orange juice.

Favorite foreign country that you’ve visited?

Australia.

A question from WaPo‘s Jennifer Rubin: What domestic skill do you lack that you wish you were proficient in?

Cooking. I can kinda do the basics and make a mean bowl of cereal.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. This one may live on indefinitely. Make it good.

Finish this thought: I’d rather stick a pen in my eye than do ______ again.

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