John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Espo Retires

Posted on July 24, 2015
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"Associated Press logo 2012" by Associated Press - vector data: colors: Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

You will never see Dave Espo’s face on Morning Joe.

While he didn’t have a face for radio, so to speak, he also didn’t have the blow-dried look of the modern day reporter.

For 41 years, Espo has plowed the fields of Congress, planting seeds among sources, reaping stories and helping to power the Associated Press.

Dave announced he was retiring and the Senate Press Gallery hosted a reception for him last night.

It was mobbed with people, which you would expect. You offer free food to a bunch of reporters and some beer too, and they will come in droves.

But it wasn’t just the 4th Estate that came to bid adieu to the reporting legend.

John Boehner, the House Speaker dropped by. So did Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid and Susan Collins and myriad of other press savvy politicians.

Espo is a professional.

He called it straight and he would never burn his sources. But he didn’t have much patience for bullshit either. And in politics, there is all kinds of bullshit.

I remember once, when I worked for the Speaker, Espo came by my desk and threw a newspaper down on it. It was a Kentucky paper and on the front page was story that Espo had written. It was a story that I had helped him on.

“This is why you talk to the AP,” he told me. And he was right.

The AP was a lifeline to the rest of America. Certainly, the Washington Post was important to an inside-the-beltway crowd. Getting a story in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal was too. But the AP wire, at least back in the day, was beamed directly to hundreds of local newspapers and it was the news source read by every American every day (at least among those who read the paper).

Espo is a grunt reporter. He is not flashy. He can be crabby on occasion, but you can’t be a decent reporter without being crabby. Along with David Rogers and Carl Hulse, he is/was the moral force behind the Congressional Press Corps. He is a fast writer who tells it like he sees it. You might disagree with his analysis, but in my opinion, it was rarely if ever fundamentally wrong.

Espo doesn’t editorialize in his news reporting. He tries to get both perspectives in his stories.

We are now in the Age of Celebrity Journalism. You see reporters on television, trying to market themselves as much as their product. Many of these reporters venture into opinion more than fact, and that’s how they get in trouble. It ends up hurting the entire industry.

But Espo is no celebrity. He is just a reporter, doing his job, a craftsman who takes pride in his work, telling the stories about Congress the way the American people need them to be told.

I told Dave yesterday that he should write a book. He demurred, asking me “Who would read it?”

I would read it, Dave. I would.

So, Mr. Espo, enjoy your retirement. And get back to work.

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