It pays to be from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' home state, at least that seems to be at least one of the lessons for a student from Washington's Mercer Island High School.
In May, the world saw Mattis' private cellphone number in a Washington Post photo that inadvertently showed President Trump's bodyguard carrying a stack of papers with the number clearly visible on a sticky note. Eagle-eyed sophomore Teddy Fischer saw the photo and called the number, according to BuzzFeed News. He didn't leave a message, but decided to text Mattis instead:
The text mentioning Fischer was from a high school in Washington state worked. Mattis grew up in Richland, Washington, and is a Central Washington University graduate. After some back and forth to schedule a time to conduct an interview, the two eventually connected on Memorial Day. The interview — originally set for 15 minutes or so, but ran about 45 minutes — was heavy on foreign policy and national politics.
During the interview, Fischer asked the obvious question about why would Mattis call him back out of all of the media requests he must get. Mattis' reply: "You left a message there and I was going through listening to the messages and deleting them. But you’re from Washington state. I grew up in Washington state on the other side of the mountains there on the Columbia River. I just thought I’d give you a call."
Fischer's story about how he landed an interview with the normally press-shy retired 4-star Marine Corps general — who is affectionately known in military circles as "Mad Dog Mattis," "the Warrior Monk," and "Chaos" — garnered the attention of national outlets like the Washington Postand NPR, and the Seattle-area media like King 5 Newsand the Seattle Times.
While the story got plenty of play from journos and foreign-policy types, Fischer, who will be a junior in the fall, and Jane Gormley, his classmate and editor at the Islander, got a firsthand lesson in modern journalism: a video of their fellow students lip-syncing to songs has more Facebook likes than the Mattis piece, as they explained in this NPR interview:
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Stephen Weigand is digital content editor at Sightline Media Group.