Carter and Reagan years; marrying a New
York Times reporter in 1983 and following
him on assignments to India and Japan;
returning to New York in 1992 and getting hired by the Times; moving back to
Washington in 2001, settling in Bethesda
and covering the White House. Today,
Bumiller runs a bureau of 60 reporters
and editors for a paper that President
Donald Trump regularly denounces as
“the failing New York Times,” and she
recently starred in ;e Fourth Estate, a
Showtime documentary series about the
Times’ coverage of the president.
How did you meet your husband,
Steve was then a White House correspondent for ;e New York Times. I met
him at a party that we were both covering. A year before, Steve had talked to
my class at Columbia. I remembered him
being very self-deprecating and funny,
so I introduced myself [at the party] and
said, ‘Oh, I remember you.’ And he said,
‘Oh, thank you very much,’ and so nothing happened. And then that spring of
1980 I ran into him again in Georgetown
and we had a short conversation and he
said, ‘I’ll give you a call. Let’s have dinner.’
Anyway, he never called. So in April of
1980—he hates this story, but I’ll tell
it—I called him and just said, ‘Would
you like to have dinner?’ And that’s how
we got together.
Tell me about your career at the Times.
I became City Hall bureau chief in ’ 99
and covered Rudy Giuliani and his
midlife crisis: his aborted [Senate] race
against Hillary Clinton, his leaving his
wife, his prostate cancer. It was a soap
opera. And then in 2001 the Times
o;ered me the White House job. At that
point I had moved to Japan and India for
Steve, so we moved back to Washington
What was it like covering Giuliani?
He was an extremely combative, very
tough mayor to cover. One time I wrote a
story about real estate in New York, and
it said Rudy had not promoted building
as much as he said he did. He went crazy.
I was covering a speech he was giving the
day the story appeared, and he went after
me. He denounced the story—it sounds
like nothing now, it was pre-Trumpian—
and he denounced me by name in front
of this huge crowd. ;at was pretty stunning for me, but in retrospect it was a
forerunner of what happens now.
Why did you settle in Montgomery
Our kids had been in private school in
New York and it was really expensive. I
knew about the great schools in Montgomery County, and a friend had told
me, ‘ You should live where my sister lives,
and that’s Westmoreland Hills.’ So Teddy
went to Westbrook, a great elementary school, and Madeleine, who was in
middle school, went to Westland. And
they both went on to B-CC [Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School].
Are either of your children interested
Neither of them. Teddy is working on a
Ph.D. in math and Madeleine is the first
mate on a tall ship in Mystic Seaport,
What were the perils of being married
to a fellow journalist?
Steve started covering the State Department, and that was a little close because I
was covering the White House. ;ere was
only one time we wrote a story together,
and it resulted in one of the biggest fights
of our marriage. It was the run-up to the
Iraq War in the early part of ’03. I had a
story about a development at the U.N.,
and Steve had a story out of the State
Department, and they combined them at
the end of the day. My contribution was
the lead because it was the White House,
and Steve was really angry. I remember
he said to me, ‘;is story is not wrong,
it’s just stupid.’ And his name was on it,
too. ;at was really bad. We never did
Why did you move into management?
By the time I became an editor, I had been
at the Times [for] 18 years and there was
nothing left that I really wanted to cover.
Dean Baquet [now executive editor of the
Times] had been bureau chief for four
years, and I saw how much di;erence one
person can make. One person.
In what way?
In terms of morale and in terms of shaping stories, helping reporters. And I also
saw how much pleasure he got out of
it. I just thought, that looks like a really
rewarding important job. So that was
when I put my hand up, and a year later I
became a deputy on the desk in charge of
the White House reporters and domestic policy. I liked feeling a part of putting
out ;e New York Times every day. You
have more of a sense of that when you
are an editor.
When did you become bureau chief?
2015. When I first became bureau chief,
I used to joke that my best training for
the job was raising two irascible teenagers, which is very insulting for everybody
involved—the kids and the bureau.
But accurate in both cases!
;is is going to sound really stupid, but I
had been the parent organizer for a very
large Boy Scout troop in Chevy Chase
that was 75 Scouts and 150 parents, and
that was actually very good training in
tact and diplomacy and moving people
along and organization.
How did raising two ‘irascible teenag-
ers’ help prepare you for the job?
I didn’t always do this as a mother, of
course, but you need to remain calm when
they are upset and try to talk them through
it and not get super engaged in the emotion of the moment, right? Stay above it.
Work them out of it. Reporters are very
passionate, and it’s a highly stressful job,
and it’s more stressful than ever now.
Tell me how life has changed under
Well, it has drastically changed. The
hours are much, much longer, and it’s
totally unpredictable. And the pressures
on us are just really intense. Also, in the
middle of all this, the Times has changed
dramatically into a digital-first operation.