Germond, Jack W. 1928-
Germond, Jack W. 1928-
Born January 30, 1928, in Newton, MA; son of John W. (an engineer) and Lottie Germond; married Barbara Wippler (an investor), December 30, 1951; second wife's name Alice; children: (first marriage) Jessica. Education: University of Missouri, B.S., 1951, B.A., 1951.
Home—Charles Town, WV. Office—Baltimore Sun, 501 North Calvert St., P.O. Box 1277, Baltimore, MD 21278.
Evening News, Monroe, MI, reporter, 1951-53; Gannett Newspapers, reporter, 1953-73, chief of Washington Bureau, 1969-73; Washington Star, Washington, DC, political editor, 1974-81, assistant managing editor and columnist, 1977; Baltimore Evening Sun, Baltimore, MD, columnist, 1981—. Guest panelist and political analyst on television shows, including NBC-Today and the McLaughlin Group, Inside Washington, and National Journal, all for Public Broadcasting Service (PBS); CNN correspondent. Military service: U.S. Army, 1946-47.
(With Jules Witcover) Blue Smoke and Mirrors: How Reagan Won and Why Carter Lost the Election of 1980, Viking (New York, NY), 1981.
(With Jules Witcover) Wake Us When It's Over: Presidential Politics of 1984, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1985.
(With Jules Witcover) Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars? The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency, 1988, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Jules Witcover) Mad as Hell: Revolt at the Ballot Box, 1992, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.
Fat Man Fed Up: How American Politics Went Bad, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Coauthor of political column "Politics Today" for Chicago Tribune—New York News Syndicate, beginning in 1977; author, with Jules Witcover, of bimonthly newsletter, Germond-Witcover Political Report, beginning 1981. Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times magazine, New Republic, and National Journal. Political editor of Washingtonian Magazine, 1981.
Journalist Jack W. Germond has covered presidential politics for decades, and he and coauthor Jules Witcover published a series of books about specific presidential campaigns. Germond has reported for the Baltimore Sun and has served as a regular commentator on television programs that include the McLaughlin Group.
Germond and Witcover began working together on a political column in the late 1970s, when Germond was at the Washington Star and Witcover at the rival Washington Post. Theirs was a fruitful collaboration in which they took turns producing five columns a week for syndication, as well as a newsletter and their various books. "You have only two goals in the newspaper business," Germond once told CA. "One is, obviously, to make a decent living. There are only two ways to do that in this business: to get syndicated or to become an editor. If you want to stay free, syndication is the answer. The second goal—and this is more important—is to have control of your own schedule, so that no one else assigns you. That's a luxury I've had for quite a long time now."
Germond and Witcover published their first tandem book in 1981, a study of campaign tactics titled Blue Smoke and Mirrors: How Reagan Won and Why Carter Lost the Election of 1980. The book focuses on critical events during the election, including key primaries and debates, consequences of the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Reagan's knack for handling Carter's negative campaign tactics, and what Lee Walczak in a Business Week review called Carter's "fatal predilection to obscure rather than correct his political errors." In presenting these incidents, Germond and Witcover argue that the presidential election of 1980 was won not by the "new political technology" but by "unforeseen events [which] were so dominant, compelling, and uncontrollable that they overwhelmed the professionals' efforts to shape and confine the presidential campaign and assure victory for the man of their choice." Walczak considered Blue Smoke and Mirrors "one of the better campaign books to come along in some time."
Subsequent Germond-Witcover collaborations have followed a similar pattern. The two print journalists immerse themselves in a political campaign and, when it has ended, draw from their notes, interviews, and columns to produce a book. A contributor to the Economist, reviewing Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars? The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency, described the two authors as "seasoned campaign journalists, informed, industrious, and intuitive…. Comprehensive and gossipy, the Germond-Witcover chronicle is rich in insider detail. If you want to know the what, the when and the how of the Republican and Democratic campaigns, it is all here."
In 1999 Germond published Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics. The memoir offers vignettes on presidents from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton, documents Germond's foray onto television in the McLaughlin Group, and casts a jaundiced eye on the changes in campaign tactics and reportage in the last decades of the twentieth century. Noting in a Booklist review that Germond "doesn't pull any punches," Ilene Cooper and Gilbert Taylor commented: "Still, Germond raking a deserving politician over the coals makes for good fun…. His prose is witty, his anecdotes are amusing in that bitter kind of way, his points are well taken, and overall, he's as hard on himself as he is on anyone else." In the National Review, Robert D. Novak characterized Germond as "a knee-jerk, even bleeding-heart liberal," but the conservative journalist went on to note that Germond "can be relied on to pick out the phonies." Novak concluded that he hoped younger journalists would read the book "to discover how a great reporter operated—and had fun doing it." New York Times Book Review correspondent Michael Tomasky wrote of Fat Man in a Middle Seat: "Germond knew everyone, went everywhere, saw everything; his droll style keeps the plot hustling along and can sometimes be quite moving…. [The book] is … a good one to have on the shelf for handy reference, to settle bets or to marvel at how many Irish coffees those guys could knock back of an evening."
Germond followed with Fat Man Fed Up: How American Politics Went Bad, in which, noted a Publishers Weekly contributor, he notes the "decline in substance, civility and integrity among politicians and those who write about them, and spares no one, including voters." Germond targets sound bite-driven media coverage, public indifference and ignorance, incompetent journalists, the influence on elections by big donors, and presidential incompetence, all of which, he contends, have become bigger problems than they were in the 1960s and 1970s. He provides anecdotes collected over half a century to make his points, and writes that objectivity is possible by a reporter with strong views. Germond feels that candidates who run on their records rather than on created images can reenergize the voting public, but he doubts that this will happen. "Germond laces his views with barbed and often funny stories," noted Karl Helicher in Library Journal.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Germond, Jack, Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.
Booklist, October 1, 1999, Ilene Cooper and Gilbert Taylor, review of Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics, p. 306; July, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of Fat Man Fed Up: How American Politics Went Bad, p. 1802.
Business Week, August 24, 1981, Lee Walczak, review of Blue Smoke and Mirrors: How Reagan Won and Why Carter Lost the Election of 1980.
Economist, November 18, 1989, review of Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars? The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency, 1988, p. 104.
Library Journal, October 15, 1999, Thomas H. Ferrell, review of Fat Man in a Middle Seat, p. 86; June 15, 2004, Karl Helicher, review of Fat Man Fed Up, p. 123.
National Review, November 8, 1999, Robert D. Novak, review of Fat Man in a Middle Seat, p. 58.
New York Times Book Review, November 28, 1999, Michael Tomasky, review of Fat Man in a Middle Seat, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, October 18, 1999, review of Fat Man in a Middle Seat, p. 38; June 7, 2004, review of Fat Man Fed Up, p. 44.
Washington Post Book World, December 19, 1999, Jay Rosen, review of Fat Man in a Middle Seat.
Wilson Quarterly, autumn, 2004, Marty Linsky, review of Fat Man Fed Up, p. 123.