I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Sid Yudain.
It’s only natural the newly installed leader of the publication he founded in 1955 would take some time reflecting on the vision he had for it.
But this particular line of thought is about more than understanding Yudain, who died at age 90 last fall, and his legacy. It’s about recognizing what this newspaper represents to Capitol Hill.
“Over the years I noticed that the national and local newspapers paid little attention to the people in Congress or the community. ... As time went on, I thought that maybe we could use a newspaper, just devote it to the Congress,” Yudain told us in 2011.
Roll Call is a neighborhood paper — for one very specific neighborhood. While its local news certainly interests the nation, especially in times of crisis or when the eyes of the world are on Washington, like Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, our basic intentions have long been to communicate with the influential Capitol Hill and greater Washington political community.
This is your newspaper.
Yes, you, Paul D. Ryan. And you, Harry Reid. And you, Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine. And you, Katie Beirne Fallon. And you, Justin Supon. And you, Ellen McLaren. And you, Lacie Larschan.
The names of lawmakers and staffers may change over time, and the face of Congress will continue to evolve, and you might be reading us on a screen or via Twitter instead of on newsprint, but the audience remains: You.
You live and work and play here, and Roll Call aims to capture that from every angle. And in new ways.
Tuesday night, for the first time, we’ll take you inside Statuary Hall as I talk with members on camera after President Barack Obama’s address. You can join our livestream Google Hangout at rollcall.com as we gauge not just reaction but the feel of the chamber, and as we analyze what the speech may signal for the critical midterm elections this fall.
Join us! And come by to chat. Our camera, run by FedNet and located between the Rosa Parks and Samuel Kirkwood statues, will broadcast from 10 to 11 p.m.
Our team will be all over the Capitol, talking with members and reporting. You know them, too, as their names grace these pages and rollcall.com: Abby, Dan, David, Emily, Emma, Hannah, Humberto, Jason, Kyle, Matt, Meredith, Nathan, Niels, Rebecca, Shira, Steve, Stu and Warren, not to mention the writers in the CQ universe and photographers Bill Clark and Tom Williams.
My byline may also look familiar. I am returning to the Roll Call family after two years as the political editor working with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff at the PBS NewsHour.
I learned a lot working in television, and particularly in public broadcasting. Talking with voters across the country, I was always reminded that people just want to know they have a voice, that they can be heard. We’re listening.
As a reporter, I always tried to remind myself that I had access to places and people most Americans will never see or meet, and not to take that responsibility lightly. It was a privilege to cover the White House, to carry a notebook through the Rotunda. And it is a privilege to be the neighborhood newspaper. And my philosophy has always been to attempt to take readers and viewers with me: inside the Iowa caucuses, on the road with Rep. Michele Bachmann or dishing about the gossip and debating the best tchotchkes handed out at the Democratic National Convention.
I’d like that to translate to this newsroom. My promise to you is to attempt to be as transparent as possible in how we run Roll Call. If we make a decision that you want to question, let me know, and I’ll answer you in this space. We’re going to be experimenting with new ways of opening up the newsroom to help you understand why we cover what we cover and how we inform readers day in and day out.
Let me know: What can we do better? What features do you miss? How do you want to engage with us?
In its 59 years in operation, Roll Call has moved around a bit: from Yudain’s congressional office to a spot across the train tracks, to 50 F St. next to the Irish Times, to our current home at 77 K St., just up the road from Union Station, and a few stops in between.
And we haven’t always done the best job of explaining changes within the organization to this community, but we’re turning that around.
For example, as a loyal reader, you surely must know that everything found at rollcall.com is free, right? And that you can download our Roll Call app in a split second to make sure you get breaking news alerts and the latest news from our team. Do you follow @rollcall on Twitter?
These are simple but important questions to ask as we grow our business in this evolving news universe. We’re listening.
Taking a look at the bigger picture, we know we can all do better in what some people refer to as “#thistown.” We can be better public servants, better friends, better journalists. That’s what I am striving for in my newsroom. Let me know how we’re doing.
Call me at 202-650-6838. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet at me @cbellantoni. Join us Tuesday night. My door is open to the Roll Call staff, and to you, Speaker John A. Boehner, and you, Rep. Ami Bera, and you, Neil Newhouse.
You live and work and play here, and so do we.
Christina Bellantoni is Roll Call’s editor-in-chief.