Let’s add ice cream

He pecks away to the clackety-clack tune of a typewriter each morning around 9 a.m. after a walk to the office kitchen for a cup of coffee. He routinely carries two burnt-yellow Ticonderoga pencils in his chest pocket. He speaks quietly, laughs softly and smiles often.

He is Jack Limpert, the editor-at-large for Washingtonian magazine, and the man who steered the publication for 40 years before stepping aside in 2009. He loves Washington, D.C.

“It’s such a great city for journalists.”

Limpert worked with Hubert Humphrey on the campaign trail in 1968, and accepted a Congressional fellowship afterward. It was the type of deal where participants were supposed to take the knowledge and skills learned in the District back to their own publications.

Limpert never left.

Instead, Washingtonian hired him in 1969. At the time, he says, the magazine was trying to mimic the Post. The fix was to cut national coverage and focus on local reporting and local service pieces.

Critics relegate him to the role of simple list-maker; supporters know that the longtime editor’s achievements extend deep into the city magazine industry.

City magazines, he told us, require a balance. It’s vanilla ice cream: something for everybody (might go well with Cathy’s cookie test).

This idea seems to be true especially in a city like DC, a bureaucratic battleground where partisan sparring can leave a person blue (or red) in the face.

And as for advice to those starting out: keep the BS and Boredom Detectors maintained every three months or 3,000 miles and for the first 10 years in journalism, let your curiosities lead you.

“Go where the most interesting job is, find an editor you can learn from,” Limpert says. “Don’t chase the money, chase the experience.”

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