From Teenage Gadfly to Politico Reporter

Daniel Lippman urges objectivity in meetings with students

Daniel Lippman urges objectivity in meetings with students
Politico reporter Daniel Lippman meets with students this week at Duke.

DURHAM, N.C.  -- As a young teenager, Daniel Lippman submitted so many questions to Bush administration officials through a program called “Ask the White House” that The New Yorker wrote a story about him.

Later, while attending George Washington University, Lippman made a hobby out of notifying reporters and editors “in as nice a way as possible” about typos in their articles. 

“I probably did that thousands of times,” he said.

Some people appreciated the call-outs. Others were dismissive.

He took on nine journalism internships and temporary jobs from high school until after college, developing his skills and honing his instincts at each step. 

Lippman’s pre-professional diligence paid off: He now covers politics as a reporter for Politico.

On Monday Lippman spent the day with Duke students, sharing insights on political reporting and the current state of politics. His visit was sponsored by POLIS: Duke’s Center for Political Leadership, Innovation, and Service and the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy.

Lippman spoke to POLIS Director Fritz Mayer’s Democracy Lab class and in DeWitt Wallace Center Director Bill Adair’s News Writing and Reporting class. The Chronicle interviewed him and he took questions from dozens of Duke students during his eight hours on campus.

He acknowledged that engaged citizenship opens doors “while also helping me understand that the world of politics is an amazing place, because you can impact millions of people.”

Lippman urged Duke students to maintain an objective and critical eye when evaluating facts, regardless of whether they pursue journalism careers. “Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, you should know the other side’s arguments.”

He also advised students to speak up for their interests -- something Lippman credits for helping him along his career. “Advocate for yourself,” he said, “because you shouldn’t always rely on others to do it for you.”

Lippman continues to contact people regularly, only this time it’s not to point out typos, but to build professional relationships and cultivate other important contacts. He sends upwards of 100 emails a day (“about 100,000 in the past three years”) and continually expands his network. “That’s a big part of my job as a reporter,” he said.

As a co-author of the Politico Playbook, a daily compendium of political happenings and other pressing news, Lippman starts each day between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. Sleep deprivation has occasionally taken its toll. He once fell asleep while attending a Broadway showing of “Hamilton.”

“That was the most expensive nap I’ve ever taken,” he said.