May the debate begin as to whether Meredith Raimondi, a scheduler for Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), is justifiably placed at the last landing spot on The Hill’s annual classic, “50 Most Beautiful.” That’s the allure of such a list. Not only is it easy to sift through, but it also prompts discussion. Superficial, ridiculous discussion, but discussion nonetheless.
When the Erik Wemple Blog asked Bob Cusack, the newly named editor-in-chief of The Hill, whether an ugly person could ever make the list, he responded, “I think it depends on what your definition of ugly is,” says Cusack, whose ascension to the top job (he officially takes control on Friday) at The Hill was announced yesterday. “I’ll get feedback — ‘Why is No. 12 on the list?’” says Cusack, speaking by way of example. “They’ll make the case that they’re ugly… They’ll make the case that No. 6 should have been higher.” Again, Cusack was just riffing, and not suggesting that this year’s No. 6, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), was somehow undervalued in the looks department.
Determining who’s hot in Washington is a process at The Hill. According to Cusack, there’s an “internal voting process” based on photo shoots of comely people who get nominated for the list. Then there’s an “internal judging process” in the hands of staffers Judy Kurtz and Ashley Perks. In Cusack’s recollection, no one on The Hill’s staff has ever complained about their involvement in hotness rankings. “As you know, there’s people on the outside who criticize it,” says Cusack, who served since 2004 as managing editor of the newspaper. “The staff really likes it because it’s something that — sure, it’s criticized — but it’s become a Washington institution, and reporters like the fact that, hey, they’re talking about our product.”
And clicking on it, too. Though the Erik Wemple Blog is incapable of judging people by their looks, we clicked through the entire list for media-criticism purposes.
Moving on to the less-trafficked work that The Hill does during the other 51 weeks of the year, Cusack says that his role in replacing Hugo Gurdon (who has moved to the Washington Examiner) is to continue placing The Hill’s work into the Capitol Hill conversation. Despite having fewer resources than a competitor like Politico, Cusack praises his staffers’ ability to pull off stories that get people talking. “I want more of that,” says Cusack. He’ll be an integral part of the outreach. A frequent TV pundit, Cusack gets invited on Fox News a fair bit but also commentates for other networks, turning in about 125 appearances a year. Under Cusack, The Hill will be furnishing more video content, including interviews with members of Congress. “It’s really seeing, okay, how can we be smarter,” says Cusack.
On the question of any ideological tilt at The Hill, Cusack says, we “strive to be nonpartisan and think we do a good job of that.” Toward that end, Cusack says that the newspaper’s columnists span both sides of the spectrum. They include Juan Williams, A.B. Stoddard, Bill Press, James Carville, John Feehery, Judd Gregg, Lanny Davis, Mark Mellman, Markos Moulitsas, David Webb, David Hill, Brent Budowsky, David Hill and Dick Morris.
Dick Morris? The guy who confidently predicted a Mitt Romney romp in 2012 on Fox News? And then got dumped by Fox News? Shouldn’t he be forced to come down from The Hill? “He’s been with us for a while and as far as us getting rid of Dick Morris, I haven’t heard anything along those lines,” says Cusack, who says he’s not ready to make any announcement on the columnist’s future. “As he knows, he’s a very controversial figure. Loyal readers like what he comes up with but he also has detractors,” says Cusack, describing, also, a certain other staple of The Hill.