On Jan. 3, the night of the Iowa caucuses, ABC political reporter Jake Tapper appeared on “Nightline” from Des Moines, where he reported live on Mike Huckabee’s surprise victory.
Afterward, he caught an overnight flight on the Hucka-plane to New Hampshire, where, around dawn, he filed a story for “Good Morning America.”
That evening, he was back in front of the cameras yet again, this time from Henniker, N.H., reporting on Mr. Huckabee for “ABC World News with Charles Gibson.”
“It was pretty nuts,” said Mr. Tapper.
But evidence suggests that Mr. Tapper’s recent flurry of productivity was no fluke. According to a new study, of all the hyper-driven personalities reporting on network nightly news, Mr. Tapper is quantitatively the least likely to lolligag.
The Tyndall Report—a web site which encyclopedically chronicles the weekday nightly newscasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC—recently published its annual year in review, including a study of “the Top Most Heavily-Used Reporters (anchors excluded)” of 2007. The results?
Mr. Tapper triumphed. Over the past year, the 38-year-old reporter scored more airtime (231 minutes) than any other network correspondent, including blue-chip regulars such as NBC’s Andrea Mitchell (220 minutes) and CBS’ David Martin (217 minutes). Most impressively, Mr. Tapper pulled out a narrow—upset!–victory over NBC’s robo-newsman, David Gregory, (230 minutes) who practically owns the Tyndall Top 20, having finished No. 1 in two of the last three years.
Mr. Tapper had never previously landed in the top 10. How did he do it?
On Friday evening, we caught up with Mr. Tapper, who was briefly back home in Washington D.C. He said he was enjoying time with his 5-month-old daughter Alice, and preparing to….
NYTV interrupted. Mr. Tapper had topped Mr. Gregory (and David Martin and Martha Raddatz and Pete Williams and Lara Logan and David Muir) during a year in which he became a first-time father? “My wife, Jennifer gets a lot of the credit,” said Mr. Tapper.
He downplayed his professional achievement. “I attribute Mr. Tyndall’s finding to the fact that it’s been such a huge political year,” he said. “The bottom line is that I am a political geek.”
But the ranks of network news chasers are well-populated with political news hounds. What sets Mr. Tapper apart?
In search of a Just-So story, we called David Carr of The New York Times. Roughly a decade ago, in the early days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Mr. Carr, the then editor of the Washington City Paper, published a freelance cover story by Mr. Tapper under the infamous banner headline, “I Dated Monica Lewinsky.” Afterward, Mr. Carr gave Mr. Tapper his first full time job in journalism.
Regarding Mr. Tapper’s prolific output and rapid ascent to the upper echelon of the news gathering business, Mr. Carr offered a theory. “The dude is relentless,” said Mr. Carr.
According to Mr. Carr, as a staff writer for City Paper Mr. Tapper’s filing appetites quickly outstripped the paper’s ability to process his copy. “If he worked for Tony Soprano,” said Mr. Carr, “he’d be called an earner.”
“A lot of these people who are productivity machines are not collegial,” added Mr. Carr. “They’re just tyrants when it comes to the craft of journalism. He has none of that. He will always help you when you call. I don’t think ambition precisely describes what’s going on with him. He’s got whatever editors look for in terms of a combination of personal neediness and endless, bottomless curiosity that tends to result in a lot of stories, many of them good.”
Despite the Observer’s best efforts on Friday night, Mr. Tapper refused to gloat.
“There’s a line in Broadcast News—what do you do when all your dreams are realized? And Albert Brooks says, ‘Keep it to yourself,’” said Mr. Tapper. “That’s kind of what I’m living right now.”