As families around the world gather to celebrate Easter, worshipers are also reacting to the tragic news that at least 190 were killed Sunday in Sri Lanka where near-simultaneous explosions targeted three churches and three hotels. Details of the attacks are still unfolding. Be kind to each other today, Philly.
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Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tamari, who covers politics and policy from Washington D.C., with a focus on Pennsylvania and New Jersey lawmakers and issues.
What’s it like covering national politics from D.C. for readers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey? Is it different than working from the same city as your home publication?
The biggest challenge is that I have fewer interactions with everyday people who may have a different perspective than those in D.C. There is a huge news media ecosystem in Washington that lurches to cover every development, and when there are other reporters scrambling all around you it can be a challenge to keep an eye on what really matters to ordinary readers, and what is just the Washington drama of the day. On a personal level, it’s hard at times to not have Inquirer colleagues bounce ideas off of or discuss stories with.
Though surely there’s no “typical” day in the life of any reporter, what might a day on the job look like for you?
Every day is surely different, but there is a rhythm to the Capitol that makes certain days more likely to produce breaking news and others to be better for long-term reporting or meetings with sources. Most weeks are a mix of both. Some days I’m at my desk making phone calls. Others I’m standing outside of votes or hearings hoping to buttonhole lawmakers. Others I’m writing or traveling to do coverage of the 2020 campaign. Every day, though, includes some mix of keeping one eye on breaking news and one on my own story ideas that hopefully are unique to the Inquirer.
The national political news cycle can be intense. How do you decide which stories to follow?
Given all that happens in a day, let alone a week, the biggest question I face every day is the best way to use my time. It’s much more art than science. Generally, I try to focus on stories where I can add something that others haven’t written about, or do a national story just as well as the biggest outlets. I try to ask myself if this is a story that will be big for 24 hours and then fade away, or if there is something bigger that will resonate and act accordingly.
Recently you’ve closely followed Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign for president. What do you think we can expect from his campaign over the next few months?
A lot of travel, and a lot of talk about unity and positivity and uplift. I expect an intense focus on South Carolina, which has a large African American electorate in the Democratic primary and might be Booker’s best chance for a win in an early primary state. He will face questions about whether he has the policy ideas to back up his broader themes of togetherness, and a challenge to make himself stand out from other Democratic contenders.
What’s one surprising thing you’ve learned in your time covering D.C.?
The access to lawmakers at the Capitol is remarkable, and a testament to the value we place on holding officials accountable. As Senators and House members come and go from votes, they are fair game for any reporter with a question. Mitt Romney was a presidential nominee. Tim Kaine was nearly vice president. Bernie Sanders has a national following. Reporters can walk right up to any of them and start asking away. The other thing you realize is that the lawmakers are more than the caricatures we often see. Each has his or her own personal experiences that have shaped his or her views, much the same as anyone else.
As a Jersey native, what do you miss most about the Garden State while you’re in D.C.?
Knowing that great pizza or bagels are never more than a short drive away.
This picture is an absolute treat, @chuckseye.
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“The chart of annual population change shows the real story. Yes, there has been a gradual swing since 2001, but the bulk of the growth was an influx after the housing bubble burst in 2008. As the housing market recovered (and unemployment dropped), interest in people moving to Philly waned. We’re now back to the “gradual swing since 2001” growth numbers. When there’s another recession, it will be interesting to see if the same thing happens again.” — patrick.j.mcklindon, on Philadelphia is still growing — a bit — and other Pa. and N.J. takeaways from new census numbers.