I had just gotten seated at the press table in a house hearing room, a few minutes before some subcommittee was scheduled to discuss the Reagan administration's proposed budget cuts in the school lunch program. It was just past nine and I was tenatively sipping my coffee when I saw Johnny Temple walk in. I nodded to him and he took the chair next to me. He looked haggard.
"How's it going?" I asked.
"I'm tired," he said, wearily producing his reporter's notebook. "Too much running around."
"Yeah," I commiserated, "there's a lot happening on your beat these days."
Johnny Temple is the star reporter for "Kids-R-Us," one of the galaxy of special-interest newsletters that emanate out of Washington.Though just 14, Johnny's been covering the child beat in this town longer than anyone can remember, and more than one veteran reporter has turned to Johnny in a pinch to find out what was really going on in the Head Start program or get a lead on some other story.
Johnny pulled out a chocolate cigarette and plopped it into the side of his mouth.
"The pace is getting to me," he said in his famous world-weary manner. "It seems like I just get through busting my tail following the saga of the FTC trying to put the screws on advertising for kids. I figured I could coast for a while, but then Reagan comes along and wants to cut the school lunch program, cut the women, infants and children program. I can't remember the last time I sat down for a civilized meal, and I'm working late, which is really messing up my social life."
I sensed Johnny's dissatisfaction was real this time. He had quite a reputation among Washington reporters as a profession griper.
"I don't know what I do it for," he continued, "I mean, you can't make a decent living at this stuff. Sometimes I wonder why I don't chuck it all and do some PR for one of the toy companies. Tonka's been after me to sign up for years."
The hearing began, and Johnny turned his attention to what was transpiring, as did all the other reporters. After the session ended, I caught up to Johnny for a moment. He was coming out of a phone booth, having just filed his story.
"Johnny," I said, "have you given any thought to what you're going to do when you grow up?"
"Nothing definite," he replied, crushing another chocolate cigarette under foot. "The first thing I'm gonna do is get my MBA."