An oversight by a newspaper led to the opportunity of a lifetime for a Mercer Island, Wash., teenager.
When the Washington Post published a photo where you could see a phone number for a prominent member of the president's cabinet, the teen decided to give him a call.
The year was pretty much over for Mercer High School Islander reporter Teddy Fischer, but he couldn’t resist when the scoop of a lifetime landed in his lap.
“This whole thing is just a miracle after miracle,” Fischer explained.
He was scanning headlines back in May when he learned about Defense Secretary James Mattis' phone number getting leaked.
“I called it to see if it was him because I was curious and it was his voice,” he explained.
He didn't leave a message but told a friend in journalism class. His buddy suggested texting a joke; Teddy instead texted and asked for an interview about foreign policy.
“I never really thought it would work,” he said.
Mattis is a Washington native, and Teddy let him know he's from Mercer Island. A short time later, Mattis called him back and agreed to talk.
There was some back and forth as he worked with his teacher and editor on questions. The interview happened on Memorial Day with Mattis spending 45 minutes on the phone with Fischer.
What followed was an insightful and thorough interview, covering topics of foreign policy, national politics, and issues that concern teens. The interview was full of information, but there were other lessons that Fischer walked away with.
"It never hurts to ask anybody anything,” he said. “Even if they seem like they're a distant figure, even if they seem like a powerful figure. There's a human side to politics and people are much more approachable than you think.”
He's not sure if journalism is in his future; for now, he’s just focused on finishing high school. Still, it takes guts to call somebody nicknamed “Mad Dog,” and the experience has given him more confidence.
Read Fischer’s piece, a full transcript of the interview and a companion piece written by his editor.
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