The 60-second interview: Philip Bump, incoming Washington Post blogger
CAPITAL: The big news, of course, is that you're leaving The Wire for The Washington Post's "The Fix" blog. What attracted you to the job? Should we expect a change in what you'll be writing about?
BUMP: Well, it's The Washington Post. I love The Atlantic, but the opportunity to write about politics at the Post is irresistible. Meeting with people there, it was obvious that there was a great deal of excitement about the paper's future, and a lot of interest in figuring out how to tell stories using what I guess we now call “post-text” tools: charts, interactives, and so on. I've done some of that at The Wire and will do more of it at the Post.
CAPITAL: The Post's memo announcing your hire mentioned that you'll be staying in New York. Has it been a challenge to write about politics from outside the nation's capital? Or do you think it gives you some necessary distance to view what's happening there?
BUMP: There's a big advantage in being able to stalk Capitol Hill, but not a critical one. I think The Wire was one of the few outlets to spot Attorney General Eric Holder's (weird) remark to Rep. Louie Gohmert about asparagus, which just came from watching the hearing online. The Post has had bigger scoops than that, I believe, but my point is simply that much of the nation's business now happens online. And the rest of The Fix team will be in DC, continuing to do what they do so well.
CAPITAL: There are a lot of players in the viral news game, and The Wire seems to have carved out a pretty big role. Do you think the site is working as intended? Has it been hard to stand out in what is obviously a crowded online news marketplace?
BUMP: One of the strengths of The Wire over the long run has been its trust in its writers. We always had the freedom to explore less-obviously interesting topics, and I think that was rewarded. One of my most popular series explored the idea of reptilians as a conspiracy theory, which emerged from having the space to be creative. Stories like that stand out.
CAPITAL: In the headline of its story about you moving to the Post, The Daily Caller called you an "ultra-liberal former union bully," citing your work for the South Bay Labor Council. Were your feelings hurt, or what?
BUMP: The Daily Caller is so much stronger (and more accurate) when it does exactly what I will do at the Post: figure out what the news is and tell it in an interesting way—regardless of who likes or dislikes it. That clearly wasn't their goal here.
CAPITAL: Before entering journalism, you worked as a senior designer for Adobe, and did campaign and communications work. Do you feel that having a diverse range of professional experience has aided your journalism? Or do you wish you had entered the media world from the start?
BUMP: No, I'm very glad to have had the experience that I do. I'm a bit older than my peers, but having that experience to draw on has been extremely useful. I can design graphics and code; I know how polling works and how campaigns put polling to use. I think the Post found that diversity appealing. But I kept staying up late at night, writing posts to send to The Atlantic and other sites, cramming in my desire to write whenever I can. Now, at night, I just sit and watch TV. And tweet.