Inside Media: Covering the Political Giants

November 23, 2008

Guest: Todd Purdum of Vanity Fair

By the Newseum staff

Todd Purdum, Vanity Fair magazine’s national editor, discussed reporting on the top leaders who shape Washington’s political landscape.

"The interesting thing about politicians is usually the gulf between what they say and what they do," he said. "One of the most effective techniques is simply to print what they say, and then let people judge that against what they do."

Since joining Vanity Fair in 2006, Purdum has written in-depth and provocative profiles of President-elect Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain, President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton and former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.

Though his portraits of the powerful can be nuanced and complex, his approach to reporting and writing about them can be simple.

Purdum, whose career includes 23 years as a New York Times reporter, spoke about the differences between newspaper and magazine writing, the use of anonymous sources and how the television series "The West Wing" reflected his work. 

"There’s a whole new generation of politicians coming along that I think will, 20 years from now, clearly be the leaders of their parties," he said. "Those are the people we should be trying to see."

"Inside Media," produced by the Newseum and held in the Knight TV Studio, is open to the public. Seating is on a space-available basis.

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