A real reporter

We’ve long admired the work of Washington-based investigative reporter Murray Waas. He’s an old-fashioned journalist who believes the first job is reporting news, not gaining fame or getting rich.

Lis Halloran of U.S. News & World Report offers some insight into Waas:

Washington investigative journalist Murray Waas, 47, has been around awhile. As a teenager, he left George Washington University well shy of a political science degree to start his reporting career working for legendary muckraker Jack Anderson. And he’s been ruffling official feathers since the Clinton Whitewater/Lewinsky imbroglio, when his stories on Salon.com took a prodigious swing at dismantling special prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s $40 million investigation.

Yet the slightly disheveled Philly native has always managed to remain well under the public’s radar – refusing to appear on television, toiling independently as a freelancer until recently joining the respected National Journal, and always working the phones and a network of sources from his Northwest Washington home.

But his cover’s been blown. With the publication in recent months of his news-breaking stories on the Bush administration’s involvement in manipulating prewar Iraq intelligence – particularly its attempt to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and to out his CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame – Waas has gotten a sometimes bitter taste of what he refers to as his "five minutes of fame." He’s now dealing not only with sources and editors but also pesky cable television bookers who never get the answer they want and new interest in his personal and professional life.

"I’ll welcome my obscurity back. Obscurity is my natural state of being. I’m comfortable with it. And it’s a great companion," says Waas. But his journalism will continue to draw attention to him. Waas’s exhaustive National Journal stories on special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s inquiry into the leak of Plame’s name to reporters has been praised by media critics and White House watchers – Jay Rosen of "PressThink" called him the new Bob Woodward, and columnist Dan Froomkin of WashingtonPost.com chided large media organizations for not acknowledging and following up on his disclosures.

Too bad we don’t have more reporters like Waas still in the business.