Saying Goodbye to the White House
By Chip Rowe
Chip Rowe, a former AJR associate editor, is an editor at Playboy.
Eleanor Clift , who began her Newsweek career 31 years ago as a secretary, gives up the White House beat after lengthy negotiations with brass. Editors had grown concerned that Clift's vocal support of Bill Clinton on CNN 's "McLaughlin Group" might be casting shadows on the credibility of the magazine's heralded White House coverage.
Newsweek hadn't named a successor at press time; the job has been turned down by veteran correspondents Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times and Jeffrey Birnbaum of the Wall Street Journal .
Clift remains at the magazine as a contributing editor and will write a piece every few months. She says the change gives her more time to devote to her freelance career, which includes her "McLaughlin" stint and a book she's writing about Washington political jobs with husband Tom Brazaitis , Washington bureau chief for Cleveland's Plain Dealer .
Clift, 54, who is also considering a newspaper column, says she doesn't want to lose touch with reporting. "It would be easier to just opinionize," she says, "but my instinct is still to call and find out what's going on."
Except for a year reporting for the L.A. Times in the mid-1980s, Clift has spent her career at Newsweek. After growing up in Queens, she accepted a secretarial position at the magazine because she wanted to work someplace "where what I typed would be interesting." She soon became a researcher and was then moved to the Atlanta bureau as office manager. "I learned how to be a reporter on the side," she recalls.
When a lawsuit by female employees in New York forced the news magazine to open more doors to women, Clift was hired as an editorial intern. Five years later, she was covering Jimmy Carter 's presidential campaign.
"A Senate aide once told me that Washington is a great place to be as long as you don't have a vested interest in the outcome," Clift says. "But I still care what happens with many of these issues."