Last week, we gave a shout-out to the Washington Blade’s 40th Anniversary, and featured their longtime reporter, Lou Chibbaro Jr. The Washington Post is also taking notice of Chibbaro with a great Style section cover story on the LGBT news veteran.
In a profession that has spawned its share of colorful characters, Chibbaro has all the panache of an accountant, complete with bookish eyeglasses, sensible shoes and a gentle expression that betrays no agenda. His main tool is a fat, source-rich Rolodex, the only one remaining in the tech-happy and ever more youthful Blade newsroom. He also has the only clunky old cassette tape recorder, and the only filing cabinets jammed with files.
“I don’t trust electronics,” Chibbaro acknowledged, his nasal voice a modulated, made-for-radio tenor.
He retains, he said, a novice’s enthusiasm for the nuts and bolts of reportage — the phone calls, the questions, the typing up of the stories, an average of four a week, year-round.
“You don’t know what they’re going to say,” Chibbaro said on a recent night as he interviewed protesters at what was perhaps his gazillionth protest, this one outside President Obama’s speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s dinner. As always, he said, his mission is the same: “to have the gay rights movement be reported in a thorough way.”
That’s a mission we can get behind at NLGJA.
My first interaction with Lou was before I got back into journalism and was finishing up law school. I was involved as an activist opposing my law school’s policy on the Solomon Amendment, which threatened to withhold funds from schools that didn’t let JAG corps recruiters.
Lou called me after seeing an article that featured me in the Washington City Paper. He asked me a couple of question, then asked “Why didn’t you give the Blade this story instead of the City Paper?” I was taken aback at the moment, but as a journalist I now have huge respect for a reporter who wants to be the first to get the story on LGBT happenings on his beat.
I also loved this anecdote about covering a presidential news conference at the White House.
There are other signs of encroaching respectability. In the past, when Chibbaro has attended presidential news conferences at the White House, he was assigned a seat in the last row, and never got to ask a question. A few months ago, at Obama’s news conference on health-care policy, he found himself directed to a seat in the first row.
“Isn’t this nice,” Chibbaro said to himself. The president did not call on him, but Chibbaro expressed no disappointment. He knows he’s getting closer.