Ari Berman is contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2010. He was a Nation intern in 2003. In this interview, Fall 2010 Nation intern Laurie Rojas asks Ari about his work and his experiences interning with The Nation.
1. How did you get from being an intern to where you are?
I had a fair amount of writing and reporting experience when I started the internship, which allowed me to write for the magazine as an intern. My editors liked what I wrote and asked me to come back after I graduated college to run a blog called "The Daily Outrage." I did that for a year and then became a correspondent in The Nation's Washington bureau before transferring back to New York.
2. What has been your most challenging reporting story? Why?
Writing my first book, Herding Donkeys. Nothing really prepares you for the intensity of the experience until you’re in it. It absolutely consumed my life for a year and required a lot of editorial and organizational discipline. Writing 100,000 words as part of a compelling, readable, and accessible narrative was tough but ultimately very fulfilling.
3. What is the best part of going on a book tour?
The groupies. No, I’m joking. A book tour is like a rock tour without the fun. The travel and schedule is very demanding, but it’s pretty cool that people are coming to hear you talk. It’s a very gratifying experience, as a writer, to speak to an engaged audience and feel that dynamic energy in the room.
4. What was the most interesting response you have gotten from your writing?
The most random thing was when Mark Ames and I obtained a photo during the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain and his campaign manager, Rick Davis, boarding a yacht in Montenegro belonging to the Italian conman Rafaello Follieri and his then-girlfriend Anne Hathaway. We sold the picture to US Weekly. It was my first, and only, foray into the bizarre world of tabloid celebrity journalism.
5. What publications do you read regularly?
The Nation, of course, followed by The New Yorker and the New York Times in print. I try to keep up with other magazines—such as The New Republic, Atlantic and Harper’s—and major newspapers like the Washington Post and LA Times. I also read a fair amount of political blogs, on sites like Politico or Talking Points Memo.
6. What are the five things you can't live without?
Power-C Naked Juice, my seltzer maker, the New York Times, my iPhone, and HD TV.
7. What advice would you give to recent intern alumni, current interns, or future interns?
I’d urge them to go out into the world and talk to people if they want to become good reporters or writers, rather than sitting behind a desk all day sending emails. I’d also urge them to pick a few subject areas that they care about and really master those fields. In an age of increasing chatter and opinion, real expertise and informed knowledge is an incredibly valuable skill.