When I made the decision to leave what I considered one of the best jobs in Washington to become the first Editor of Public Eye, a friend observed it was an opportunity to either help restore a measure of credibility to the journalistic profession or destroy it entirely. While that is surely an overstatement on the consequences of this venture, it does help to explain why I chose this path.
Before joining the CBS Digital News team, I served as Editor of The Hotline, the nation's preeminent daily publication on American politics. In various positions, I spent the past seven years at The Hotline, gaining a front-row seat to historic events ranging from the impeachment of President Clinton and the scandal surrounding it to the contested 2000 presidential election to the contentious 2004 race.
In between, I covered all the big political stories, from the shocking election of Jesse Ventura as Governor of Minnesota (a precursor to Arnold Schwarzenegger's political rise), to the fall of both a House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader to the division of America into "Red and Blue." And, along with the rest of the nation, witnessed the horrors of 9/11 and the uncertainty, fear and wars that followed.
At some point, I found that I had become a political pundit, appearing as a regular commentator on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" and programs such as "The McLaughlin Group," "O'Reilly Factor" and "Hardball." And I became a piece of the 24/7 television news wallpaper with short appearances on CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and the Fox News Channel. Some may even have heard my regular appearances on ABC Radio's syndicated "John Batchelor Show."
Having worked at The Hotline from 1992-1995, I returned there in 1998 after tours of duty at two television networks. From 1995 through the 1996 presidential election, I worked at CBS News, as an associate producer and researcher in the political unit. It was the year Clinton breezed to re-election on the winds of a strong economy and a divided Republican Party. It was also when I began to learn about the television news business.
That education continued as I moved on to the Fox News Channel, which at the time was a largely dismissed upstart. Through 1997 and into 1998, my immersion into the wild world of 24-hour cable news resulted in stints as a field producer, booker, line producer and associate producer for "Fox News Sunday" with Tony Snow. The beginnings of FNC's phenomenal rise had just become apparent when I received the call to return to The Hotline.
Before my career in journalism began, I had dabbled in politics for a short, but extremely intense, time. Yes, my very first real job (if you want to call it a real job) was as the Deputy Press Secretary for Pat Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign. As lofty as the title may sound to some, the job amounted largely to fielding the hundreds and hundreds of press calls each day and explaining to screaming reporters that a bare-bones campaign didn't have much in the way of position papers, let alone rapid response. Needless to say, there weren't many opportunities awaiting me among the GOP establishment following that campaign.
On a personal note, I was born in Colorado Springs on January 10, 1969 and spent most of my youth in the farming and ranching community of Simla, Colorado. In those days (even before cable TV) we spent our time roaming the vast expanses of the Western plains, playing cowboys and Indians, playing baseball and just laying around to stare at the clouds or the stars. As we grew older, our days were filled with stacking hay, feeding cattle, working them and playing 8-man football. It was Norman Rockwell with an Old West twist.
While I attended high school at, and graduated from, Big Sandy High School in Simla, my family had the unique opportunity to spend several earlier years in various locations in Alaska. For reasons best left to my parents to explain (my father, Morris Ververs has been a teacher and school administrator in addition to running a ranch), we spent several months in the Anchorage-area city of Wasilla when I was about nine. Shortly after that, we spent several months in the Eskimo whaling village of Kivalina.
But my real Alaska adventure occurred in Deering, another Eskimo village located on the southern rim of the Kotzebue Sound and about 50 miles south of the artic circle. We spent three winters there when my father accepted a job as principal of the small school (in 2003, the population of Deering was 138). Since we returned to Colorado during the summers, we missed out on the constant daylight, but the bitter cold winter nights spent staring at the dazzling Northern Lights remain strongly embedded in my memory. As do the kind and loving Inupaik people who lived there.
After all that, I spent a little over four years at the University of Colorado in Boulder, studying history and working odd jobs to help pay the bills. Having spent my entire life in small towns and rural locations, even a small city like Boulder was a shock to the system. Friends and football kept me hanging in, but in the spring semester of 1990, I took an internship in the Washington, D.C. office of Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO). I returned that summer and studied straight through the next year. But the hook was set and I left for D.C. in August of 1991, just a few credits shy of a degree I have yet to finish.
Things may have taken a much different turn if not for two events: Getting hired on the Buchanan campaign, and meeting Lisa Vilish, a transplant from western Pennsylvania, whom I would marry in December, 1993. Together we have tromped through nearly twelve wonderful years and have three beautiful children as a result – Victoria, Camryn and Vaughn Henry. We live in the suburban bliss of Alexandria, Virginia, surrounded by many wonderful friends. Not previously associated with any church, I was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church in 1998.
As the editor of a Web log committed to bringing transparency to CBS News, my own biases are sure to be an important and legitimate point of discussion. With the highlights from my life story, you can piece together much of it for yourselves. By virtue of my upbringing and past affiliations, I mostly fit in the conservative mold. I generally (not always) vote Republican but consider myself more libertarian than the party line. As a longtime observer of the political process, I have developed what I call a "balanced cynicism," that sees spin and talking points for what they are. Above all, I am a curious observer, and it is that quality I seek to bring to the Public Eye.