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June 16, 2015

Roll Call Turns 60

Yudain, left, with Nixon, Roll Call's first subscriber. (Courtesy Lael Yudain)

Yudain, left, with Nixon, Roll Call’s first subscriber. (Courtesy Lael Yudain)

Roll Call celebrates its 60th anniversary Tuesday with the same mission dreamed up by founder Sid Yudain — serving as a hometown newspaper for the legislative community.

The front page of the first issue of Roll Call, published on June 16, 1955, featured a letter from Vice President Richard M. Nixon, whose interest spoke to the need and awaiting audience for Capitol Hill coverage from a different perspective. Full story

From Showcasing Sexy Staffers to Boozing With Members, Roll Call Has Endured

In honor of the 6th anniversary of Roll Call.

In honor of the 6th anniversary of Roll Call.

When you have 60 years of congressional and journalism history to sort through, where do you even begin? It can be a struggle to fully comprehend every twist and turn, to get your arms around the vastness that is six decades. So I return to Sid.

Sid Yudain, the man who founded this scrappy newspaper in 1955 as an aide to a freshman Republican from Connecticut, loved Congress. And over the years, Congress grew to love him back. Sid was Roll Call.

Full story

April 1, 2015

Having Fun With Congress

Boehner crying is not a tough slideshow to put together. But we didn't. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Boehner crying in public would not be a tough slideshow to put together. But we didn’t. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Back in 2010 during my first stint at Roll Call, I suggested creating a “tear tally” to track how often Speaker John A. Boehner needs to pull out a hankie. Not to make fun of him, of course, but to use data to remind our readers that we track Congress like no one else. It never quite came together, even though there has certainly been plenty of material.

Boehner isn’t afraid to show his softer side. He gets enough grief about it, so we decided not to give him much more — other than the tease to this post in today’s print edition of Roll Call.

Full story

January 20, 2015

Roll Call Presents: State of the Union Watch Party

This is a town full of nerds, so I don’t feel all that worried admitting I love State of the Union night.

Sure, the speech is just theatrics for the camera, and the stand-up, sit-down, grimace-chuckle-cheer thing gets a little old. And the promises of working together typically fall to the wayside before the president’s motorcade makes it back up Pennsylvania Avenue. But Washington loves its pomp and circumstance, and nights like Tuesday are one reason I left California to work here more than 11 years ago.

Full story

September 23, 2014

The Roll Call Fab 50: An Evolution Begins

Fab·u·lous (adjective): extraordinary, especially extraordinarily large.
amazingly good; wonderful.

What exactly is it that makes a Capitol Hill staffer so fabulous?

Roll Call has been publishing the Fabulous 50 list of the leading Democratic and Republican staffers for at least 26 years — possibly longer than some of the people striving to be on it have been alive.

To be honest, I hate it. Maybe that’s residual anxiety because when I was a kid, I used to want to make People’s Most Intriguing list, and let’s face it, that’s not likely to ever happen. Or maybe it’s just time the Fab 50 gets a newsroom makeover.

The twice-yearly project is compiled by Roll Call editors and reporters, and it details top aides who fit into four criteria. That’s “Mastery” for the Hill’s policy and procedural experts; “Influence” for individuals who drive the agenda, cut the deals, craft legislation and sway members; “Spin” for Congress’ best communicators who help set the tone and frame the debate; and “Access” for staffers who are in the room when decisions are made.

Full story

September 9, 2014

Roll Call’s #50Richest Project, Explained (Video)

Nephron is less interested in the 50 Richest Members of Congress than I am.

Nephron apparently is less interested in the 50 Richest Members of Congress than I am. (Christina Bellantoni/CQ Roll Call)

There was a moment recently when I worried I had gone a little crazy. It was somewhere between realizing I’d skipped a page of Rep. Peter Welch’s assets and posting a photo of my cat Nephron laying on Sen. Tim Kaine’s financial disclosure forms on Instagram with the hashtag #catsof50Richest.

Why, you might ask, would the woman who runs Roll Call be doing this kind of data entry? Right about then I was asking myself the same question.


I’ve always been a believer in exposing as much publicly available information about taxpayer-funded operations as possible. I’ll never forget when Brian Bothun, my editor at my first daily newspaper job in California, asked me to collect the addresses for each member of the Los Gatos Town Council so we could print their home values on the front page.

I wasn’t sure it was the best idea, but Brian reminded me the information was public and any citizen could go look it up at any time. Our job, he said, was to push things like this into the sunlight.

He was right. And I feel the same way about Roll Call’s 50 Richest Members of Congress list. Full story

June 16, 2014

Softball, Sunshine and Sisters: Why I Play

Bellantoni greets fellow Bad News Babe Abby Livingston. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bellantoni greets fellow Bad News Babe Abby Livingston at the 2013 game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

About 75 minutes into the morning, I took a softball to my left shin.

The purple welt that formed soon after served as a nice distraction from the bruise about 2 inches above it, the result of a stray toss at a scrimmage last weekend.

It was my third consecutive day with less than five hours of sleep, after an intense and unpredictable week in the political news business. I’d started out on the field at 7 a.m., groggy and grouchy, mentally ticking off everything on the to-do list and preparing for a television hit in a few hours.

My leg hurt, but I was pleased I’d been a swift backup for the other outfielder, and that I’d gotten the ball into the shortstop’s glove.

As I walked into CNN later, someone remarked, “You sure look happy for getting up at 5:30 a.m.”

And this is why I play.

I have several goals for Wednesday’s Congressional Women’s Softball Game, which pits lady journalists against female members of Congress.

Full story

March 7, 2014

Roll Call Round Table: After Cummings-Issa Dust-Up, a Look Back at Nasty House Fights (Video)

CQ Roll Call Photo

(CQ Roll Call Photo)

So, how nasty was the brouhaha between Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, anyway? And how did the resulting floor fight over a resolution to rap Issa on the knuckles compare to other partisan stunts?

These are questions that came up Thursday morning in our editorial meeting as Congressional Black Caucus members put forth the measure, and once you got us going, the stories started flying. Bill Thomas, crying! Nancy Pelosi turning out the lights and locking the House chamber! The days when legislative spats were settled with fisticuffs! Sure, partisan rancor these days is bad, but things have definitely been worse. (This is something I recently was asked about before giving a speech in Massachusetts.) Full story

February 4, 2014

Why We Changed Our Labrador Story

I hate corrections.

Surely no intelligent journalist would disagree with that sentiment.

And in the case of this particular correction, I really hate having to do them when it’s not something I reported on myself.

In the spirit of transparency I promised readers in my debut “Newsroom Confidential” column last week, I want to explain why this story, first published at 5:59 p.m. Tuesday, now includes a correction and a partial transcript of the interview.

What transpired today happens in newsrooms all the time. Full story

January 28, 2014

Your Neighborhood Newspaper

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Sid Yudain.

It’s only natural the newly installed leader of the publication he founded in 1955 would take some time reflecting on the vision he had for it.

But this particular line of thought is about more than understanding Yudain, who died at age 90 last fall, and his legacy. It’s about recognizing what this newspaper represents to Capitol Hill.

“Over the years I noticed that the national and local newspapers paid little attention to the people in Congress or the community. … As time went on, I thought that maybe we could use a newspaper, just devote it to the Congress,” Yudain told us in 2011. Full story

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