Denizens of pre-renovation Reid Hall from the mid-1980s can certainly relate to much of the portrait of Mike Allen (Class of 1986) that is painted in the fascinating cover story on Mike and Politico in the New York Times Magazine. You can read that piece online today, and it’s worth every minute you spend. Here is the link.
Literally within minutes of the story’s posting on the Times website, about half a dozen people had e-mailed to point it out. Among the many details that ring true in Mark Lebovich’s piece is the description of Mike’s “showing up out of nowhere, around corners, at odd hours, sometimes a few time zones away.” That was true back during his days as editor of the Ring-tum Phi, when Mike would appear suddenly, out of nowhere, in the doorway of the news office. Instead of his now omnipresent BlackBerry, he had a legal pad under his arm and would be chewing on a pen.
Here are just a few of the other descriptions of Mike that you’ll find cited in the Times piece:
From Bob Woodward on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “You don’t have to do anything else, just read Mike Allen.”
From Democratic consultant Tracy Self: “[Mike] is part mascot and part sleepless narrator of our town. He is an omnipresent participant-observer, abundantly kind, generous and just unpredictable enough to make him an object of curiosity to even the most self-interested. Everything about him is literary.”
And from Mike himself, this anecdote that will no doubt resonate with his former journalism teacher at W&L: “[Mike] became animated when discussing a long-ago reporting job in Fredericksburg, Va. His favorite story there was headlined, ‘Hot Dog: A Meal or a Snack?’ The county board of supervisors was debating whether hot-dog sales should include a meal tax. ‘Every single thing that I’ve written since then,’ Allen said, ‘whether it’s about a mayor or a governor or senator or president, it all boils down to, “Hot Dog: A Meal or a Snack?” All great questions come from small questions.’ ”