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Lloyd Grove
Lloyd Grove
The Reliable Source
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The Reliable Source
Hosted by Lloyd Grove
Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, April 4, 2003; 11 a.m. ET

Got a rumor to dispel or confirm? Looking for dirt on your favorite or most-hated Washington celebrity? Ask "The Reliable Source" columnist Lloyd Grove.

Grove, a 20-year veteran of The Washington Post, has been writing The Reliable Source column in the Style section since May 1999.

Grove grew up in Los Angeles and Greenwich, Conn. He was an English major at Yale and worked for the Kansas City Times (now defunct, we think), the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the Dallas Morning News before joining the Post on the Weekend section, where for a few years he reviewed practically every live theater show that opened in D.C., including a few in church basements.

From there, he joined Style as a general assignment writer with a special interest in politics, and spent a year and a half covering the 1988 presidential campaign for the National staff. In 1991 -- after an ill-advised book leave -- he returned to Style and served as a political reporter, with occasional detours into television and movie coverage. He also has written extensively for Vanity Fair magazine.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Lloyd Grove: GOOD MORNING, everyone. Another fun-filled week. It finally really IS spring. The sap is rising, and the congressmen can't leave them coeds alone. Anyhow let's see if YOU guys can control yourselves.

Washington, D.C.:. Methinks you get more pleasure out of being the story than reporting the story. What else explains your need to share the subject's reaction to you, as in the Tim Robbins story of last week? In the future, please spare us the details of your confrontations with the long (and growing, I'm sure) list of people you pi** off.

Lloyd Grove: Maybe you're right.
By the way, I'm not sure I can continue this chat in a frivolous way. I have just heard the terrible news that Michael Kelly, a brilliant journalist and a lovely man, has been killed while covering the war in Iraq. I am shocked, as I am sure his many friends and admirers are--to say nothing of his family. I really don't know what else to say.

Lloyd Grove: Apparently, the circumstances are not yet clear. I'm sure The Washington Post will be putting up as detailed a report as it possibly can as soon as it can.

Rockville, Md.: Lloyd,

Why do you think it's important to have a column like Reliable Source in the Post?

Lloyd Grove: This morning, it doesn't seem important, but perhaps it will in due course. By the way, Michael rocketed to stardom in this business with his reporting from the first gulf war for the New Republic I believe, and, after being hired by David Bradley to run The Atlantic Monthly, he turned that interesting, literary and occasionally musty magazine into a fascinating must read.

Louisville, Ky.: I'm so sorry to hear about Mike Kelly. Tell us a great story about him.

Lloyd Grove: I didn't know him very well, so I have no memorable stories. I liked him and just thought he was enormously talented. I do understand that given Mike's neoconservative inclinations, some of the liberal writes at The Atlantic were worried that he wouldn't allow them their say in the magazine and would edit their stuff with a heavy hand. Turns out he always improved their pieces and made them even more articulate and compelling, at least so I hear from some of the previously worried liberal writers.

Rockville, Md.: Lloyd, I don't think the chat is important right now. Go find a little peace.

Lloyd Grove: I think we'll turn it over to Mike Kelly postings.

Washington, D.C.: Lloyd --

My condolences to you and the other Washington Post staff for the sudden loss of an such an esteemed colleague.

Lloyd Grove: It is hard, even impossible, to believe.

Gaithersburg, Md.: I rarely agreed with Michael Kelly, but I always read his columns. I believe he brought a thoughtful perspective to his work that made it memorable. My condolences to all of you at the Post on the loss of a valued colleague.

Lloyd Grove: Thanks.

Alexandria, Va.: Lloyd,

Michael Kelly and I agree about little;still I read him for perspective. It is, of course, tragic.

I had read early this AM about a soldier and journalist being killed in an "car" accident. Is this what happened ?

Lloyd Grove: I have no other information. I think we'll be getting a detailed reporter from Howie Kurtz in due course.

Just fyi: Howard Kurtz posted a story about Michael Kelly: Atlantic Monthly Editor Killed in Iraq

Lloyd Grove: There you go. Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: Michael Kelly -- what will happen at Atlantic Monthly?

Lloyd Grove: I am sure everybody at that magazine is grief-stricken.

Fairfax, Va.: Lloyd,

How sad, and awful. Is this the Michael Kelly that writes editorials for the Post on occasion?

Lloyd Grove: The very same. He pulled no punches in his opinion columns -- and that's why people read them, I think.

Hi Lloyd: I'm sorry for the Post's loss. My husband is there and I worry when events like this happen.

Lloyd Grove: It is a terrible reminder -- for those of us who have been watching on television -- that war is real and good people die. The journalists, from this and other news organizations, who are in the region have put themselves in harm's way to serve readers and viewers -- and I admire them for it.

Arlington, Va.: Lloyd, was Michael Kelly the columnist who had such interesting pieces on the op-ed page of the Post during the Clinton/Lewinsky era? If I recall correctly, he was the son of Marguerite Kelly, who writes the Parents' Almanac column for the Post. Condolences to his colleagues and family.

Lloyd Grove: That's correct. He was also briefly editor of the New Republic, but parted ways with the owner over Michael's insistence on publishing critical articles about the owner's friend Al Gore -- at least so I read.

Washington, D.C.: Lloyd --

My condolences to you all. I didn't care for Kelly as a columnist, but what he did for the Atlantic Monthly is undeniable -- along with David Remnick's New Yorker, it is clearly the most outstanding national magazine in America. He put such a crack staff and set of contributors/editors there, I hope that it will be able to carry on without his leadership.

Lloyd Grove: I believe that Michael had already left day to day editing of the magazine to longtime Atlantic veteran Cullen Murphy, who is a solid guy, from all I hear.

Washington, D.C.: Michael Kelly has small children and a wife, doesn't he? My heart breaks for them.

Lloyd Grove: Mine, too.

washingtonpost.com: Once again, here is the article on Michael Kelly: Atlantic Monthly Editor Killed in Iraq (Post, April 4)

Columbia, Md.: So sorry to hear about Michael Kelly. I thought his reporting from Iraq was insightful and had his unique perspective. I did not usually agree with his political slant but I always read his columns for their insight and to get a different point of view, thoughtfully presented. He will be greatly missed by his readers

Lloyd Grove: Thanks for the message.

Alexandria, Va.: Michael Kelly was a gifted prose stylist with a flair for exposing the pretensions of politicians. That he favored skewering the left over the right matters not. He shall be missed terribly.

Lloyd Grove: Thanks.

Arlington, Va.: Don't forget that Michael Kelly wrote what was possibly the best book of reporting to come out of Gulf War I -- "Martyrs' Day". It's still as readable and fresh today as it was in 1991. I think it likely that with that war and this writing in this one, he will be as important a figure in American war journalism as Ernie Pyle, and sharing Pyle's fate as well.

Lloyd Grove: Good point.

Olney, Md.: I read and sometimes contribute to a number of washingtonpost.com chats throughout the week. I sense that there is a core group for every moderator, reporter and columnist. I always look forward to yours, Lloyd, as the real fun for the end of a long week. These chats create such a sense of community, whatever a person's politics are, and it is tragic when we lose even one voice.

Lloyd Grove: I agree.

Arlington, Va: Lloyd

"War is not healthy for children and other living things."

That's all I have to say today.

Lloyd Grove: I think Michael Kelly might have had a piquant thing or two to say about your observation.

Chantilly, Va.: Lloyd: this is heartbreaking news. What turned out to be Michael's last story is also one of the few stories on this war that I have read from the beginning to the end. It grabbed me right from the lead. It was not until I read Howard's story that I realized who had written it.

My condolences to his family and colleagues.

Lloyd Grove: Thanks.

Somewhere, USA: Just to remind all the chatters, there are all sorts of people on both sides who won't be coming home to their mothers, wives, children, etc. Keep them in your heart too.

Lloyd Grove: Good words.

Silver Spring, Md.: Just in case people are kicking you when you are down, the first person on the chat needs to chill. That was part of the story. Your job is to give us the hot gossip. So in your tender state, let me assure you that s/he is not right (unless it is right-winged, aka humorless.).

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kelly family.

Lloyd Grove: OK, thanks.

Albertville, Ala.: I would like to say that whether I agreed or disagreed with Michael Kelly I always read him. He seemed that rare breed in modern life, a man of integrity. He was also courageous enough to put his life on the line when he thought reporting was important.

His last column was beautifully written. May his memory live on in his writings.

Lloyd Grove: I have no doubt that it will.

Downtown D.C.: Is Michael Kelly the highest-profile American journalist to be killed in a combat zone since Ernie Pyle? Has a journalist from The Post ever been killed while reporting a war before?

Lloyd Grove: These sort of assessment will have to be made in coming days and weeks.
I am not knowledgeable enough about Washington Post history to be able to answer that. Perhaps someone can help.

Alexandria, Va.: Deepest sympathies on the death of Michael Kelly. It is a great loss to journalism. His perspective was invaluable. I generally did agree with him, more often than not, and found it refreshing to have a well-thought-out conservative perspective from time to time in the Post.

Lloyd Grove: Indeed.

Greenbelt, Md.: While I was reporter at the Washington Times in 1986 and 1987, covering the Len Bias case, Michael Kelly was a reporter at the Baltimore Sun. Of course, I worked with Mike's father, the equally legendary Tom Kelly, at the Times. So Mike and I connected. We also battled each other for the affections of a certain Washington Post reporter at the time. One night, Mike and I had dinner at a pub in Fells Point, and it was hilarious -- we talked about the Bias case, each trying not to reveal each others' sources, tactics and story ideas; we talked about our respective newspapers, each trying not to harshly criticize each others' place of employment; and we talked about politics, and Mike thought I was a die-hard conservative, but I wasn't. After the Bias case ended, we went our separate ways and I followed Mike's career. Although I didn't agree with his views, he was obviously a success. I'll hold that time covering the Bias case and that dinner in Fells Point as great memories of a talented, very smart fellow journalist. Take care, Mike.

Lloyd Grove: Thanks for the reminiscence.

Washington, D.C.: Lloyd, how many journalists associated with the Post are in the Gulf?

Lloyd Grove: I haven't counted them up but with writers and photographers, I would put the number at over 20.

Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: I was just raving this morning about Marguerite Kelly's column. What a chilling coincidence to read that her talented son was killed.

Other than the obvious grief over such a tragic loss, how do you think other embedded journalists will react? A change in the "war games" tone perhaps?

Lloyd Grove: I doubt the journalists who are over there think this is a game.

Washington, D.C.: He was killed in a humvee accident, I am told.

Lloyd Grove: right, that seems to be what Howie is reporting.

Washington, D.C.: Since I never agreed with Kelly, my favorites were his more light-hearted columns. He once wrote about colored Christmas tree lights v. white lights (his personal preference being the colored lights). I've thought of that column many times. I don't know why.

Lloyd Grove: He had a lot of varied music in his repertoire, for sure.

Arlington, Va.: I think people are missing the point about Michael Kelly's integrity. He was no right-wing ideologue. He skewered people like Gore, Clinton, and particularly other journalists because he perceived their liberalism was a packaged, rarefied product of being compartmentalized from the rest of American life. He was from a newspaper family, marinated in the idealism of newspaper union halls, and he was a NEWSPAPERMAN, not a "media figure". He lived to pound the pavement, work to get the story, and be in sync with the rhythms of the newsroom. You can't say that about too many talking heads these days.

Lloyd Grove: Very good point, I'd say.

McPherson Square, Washington, D.C.: Along with George F. Will and Charles Krauthammer, Michael Kelly was one-third of what we contrarian wags referred as the Post's "Token Troika" of conservatives who bucked the prevailing liberal bent on the Post op-ed page. He was a classy writer and a classier gentleman. What a loss.

Lloyd Grove: Thanks for your post.

Michael Kelly: So sorry to hear about this. I stopped reading opinionators a long time ago. I never understood why the opinions of these folks is so valued. I guess I just never understood what gave their thoughts such value in the first place. Anyway sorry to hear about this.

Lloyd Grove: I agree with the previous poster that Mike was, at bottom, and at top, too, a shoe-leather reporter. He had such a great feel for things in life and politics, he couldn't help but have opinions, too, and he was lucky enough to be able to articulate them entertainingly.

Austin, Tex.: People like Michael Kelly are good for the political discourse in this country. They state opinions strongly, even aggressively. But they support their opinions with cogent arguments. Just as important, they know how to use the English language. That in itself is a precious gift.

Lloyd Grove: Well said.

12th Floor Metro Center: Lloyd, to those chatters who write in and beef about you and tell you that you have a cold heart, I certainly hope today's chat changes their minds. My condolences to you, all journalists and the Kelly family.

Lloyd Grove: Thanks.

Northern Virginia: Michael Kelly WAS a liberal. He just stemmed from the old school of hard-drinking, union member, non-college educated New Deal or GI Bill Irish Catholic reporters who used to dominate the nation's newsrooms and helped advance liberal causes like the Civil Rights Movement and cleaning up crooked government. He was his father's son. Not meant as a slam against you, Lloyd, but until very recently very few reporters came from the ranks of English majors at Yale.

Lloyd Grove: Fair points all.

Alexandria, Va.: I worked with Michael Kelly at TNR, and he was a beloved editor there, wonderful relationships with the editorial staff. His writing on the first Gulf War enriched the magazine, as even Marty would agree. What a loss for journalism and his family and friends. A sad day.

Lloyd Grove: Very sad.

Capitol Hill:

I've known Mike since we were three-years-old, born two days apart. I'm in his mother's books. He's in my heart. We went our own ways, both into journalism. w. crabapple

Lloyd Grove: Thanks much. By the way, Rocci my producer is saying that Mike is the first U.S. journalist to die in this war.

D.C. The cost of covering a story: Not since Danny Pearl has such a spotlight been shown on the risk of reporters trying to share the stories of our times. It seems lessons of the past are destined to be learned over and over.

Lloyd Grove: For me the lesson is that journalism is sometimes a dangerous profession, and those who cover wars and other perilous events are fully aware of the risks, I would think, and probably pretty scared. Yet they do it anyway. Grace under pressure, I guess you could say. Ditto the soldiers over in Iraq.

Kelly: While we're commemorating Michael Kelly, I also want to commend Peter Baker for his piece on the Iraqi doctor who risked his life to facilitate Jessica Lynch's rescue. There is a case of true heroism.

Lloyd Grove: Thanks for that. Time for me to go. Let me just wish all our colleagues in the war zone and safe tour, and offer my personal condolences to Michael's family. I'm sure I won't be the only one shedding tears today. See you all back here next Friday same time same place. Bye.

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