Maggie Haberman believes that serving booze can help a young scribe become a better journalist.
The venerable political reporter for Politico and mother of three keeps readers informed about the crumbling Republican Party and the machinations of presidential hopefuls Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie. But Haberman once worked part-time at the jazz club Cleopatra’s Needle, waiting on David Paterson and Jerrold Nadler, to supplement her income as a “copy kid” at the Post.
“It teaches you to listen, pick up on people’s cues, read the room and get people to talk to you on their terms,” she said.
The Post trained her well too. Haberman remembers writing up a story in June 2001 about a piece of direct mail that mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg sent out touting his ability to run a hospital, which she called “a bit of a stretch.”
“I said, ‘I’ll do this tomorrow,’ and [my editor Gregg Birnbaum] said, ‘No, now!’ ” she recalled. “I was irritated at the time, and was ready to go out with my boyfriend, but it’s sort of the model of how we do things. Now we just have an endless reality of 24-hour deadlines. It works well with people with no off switch, and I don’t have one.”
“Working” is how Haberman says she relaxes, but raising three children while having a demanding journalism career can be a challenge for just about anyone.
“It is a daily struggle that I live weekly,” she said. “My oldest understands what I do. … He gets frustrated sometimes because of how much I have to work, but he’s very interested in presidents and history. I took him with me to the National Governors Association. He found some of it boring but enjoyed showing ‘Angry Birds’ on his iPad to Martin O’Malley.”
Her best advice for young journalists? Read up on your subject, and try not to talk too much.
“I think that one mistake that a lot of reporters make is filling the dead air when you’re interviewing somebody you don’t know,” she said. “It’s really important not to try to eat up the time, talking yourself.”