Heard on the Hill: An Editor’s Top 5 Picks From 2011
It’s the end of the year, a time for thoughtful reflection and pointless list-making. In that spirit, here is Roll Call editor Ryan Teague Beckwith’s list of the best Heard on the Hill items of 2011.
Every Member of Congress is equally famous in the eyes of Heard on the Hill. In fact, the less well-known you are, the more likely you are to say and do things we find interesting. And so we found ourselves with a fascinating story on the staff of freshman Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and a particularly rowdy party in Annapolis, Md. This was an HOH item so good it made the front page of Roll Call and was reprinted by a Mississippi newspaper.
Many a Member of Congress, hoping to score some points with fans of local sports teams and/or regional cuisine, has made a public bet. Many a communications director has sent HOH an email about how we should write this up. Many an email has been deleted. But something about Sen. Kay Hagan’s (D-N.C.) wager of some Bojangles’ chicken offended the sensibilities of our former food critic, Warren Rojas. His dismissive take inflamed the passions of a Tar Heel reader. (To be fair, Bojangles’ regulars probably have high blood pressure to begin with.) And Hagan’s staff showed it had a sense of humor about it all.
HOH is so much fun to read that people don’t always realize the work that goes into it. After hearing from a colleague (who shall remain nameless to protect her reputation) that the previous night’s episode of “Glee” had given a shout-out to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), we went to work. Two hours later, your intrepid editor had bought a useless subscription to Hulu Plus, tried to download the episode on his work computer (hello, IT department) and finally resorted to downloading it on his iPhone, which required logging in to the company wireless (hello again, IT), all the while muttering to himself — like Lois Lane in “Superman II” — “Pulitzer Prize. Capital P, small u, l, i …”
Here’s a fun little item about a Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) hitting another Member’s car. Now, if they were from different parties, this would have probably blown up onto cable TV news shows and ads would already have been written to capitalize on the automotive encounter during the next re-election campaign. But you’d never know anything about it if it weren’t for HOH’s awesome tipsters, who send us tidbits like this every day. (Got one? You can share it here.)
HOH is not written by just Neda Semnani and Warren Rojas. In a way, it’s written by the entire CQ Roll Call newsroom. While swarming the Hill every day to nail down important political and policy stories, our colleagues come across a lot of fun, but irrelevant, stuff. Goofy asides, odd bits of trivia and funny anecdotes that don’t fit in their stories. Rather than tell this over beers to their friends and roommates, they dutifully share this with HOH reporters who then share it with you. This is just one of many examples, from the time when a reporter ran across a particularly grumpy Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).