David Lauter is the Assistant Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Times. He began his career at the LA Times in Washington, where he covered national politics. He moved to LA in 1995 and took on a series of editing roles. Under his guidance, the Times’ coverage of the California wildfires in 2003 received a Pulitzer Prize. As an undergraduate at Yale, Lauter majored in History. His daughter is now a sophomore in Branford College.
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What is your favorite memory of Yale?
Touring Europe with the Glee Club the summer after sophomore year. I had never been overseas before, and, suddenly, there I was singing in Westminster Abbey and Chartres and at the American embassy’s reception for the Paris airshow, where a pack of hungry college students was turned loose on the caviar buffet.
You can’t live without …
Food? Water? Music? I think I could live without e-mail.
If you could meet one character from a novel, who would it be?
The Cat in the Hat. Think about it. How cool would that be?
If you could ask President Obama a question, what would it be?
I’ve interviewed a couple of presidents and have learned that one question, without follow-ups, almost never reveals something unexpected: A good politician almost always has an answer for one question. But if I could ask just one, it would be whether he now thinks he made a mistake by not asking for a bigger stimulus package his first year.
Writing today needs more …
Fact. The world is awash in opinion, but has fewer and fewer people dedicated to uncovering new facts. Opinions without fact are like buildings built on sand.
What is your favorite word and why?
Yes, “what” is my favorite word, and “why” is pretty good, too. It’s surprising how far one can get in life with those two.
Do you have a Facebook account? Why or why not?
No. Because everyone has one.
If you could go back to college now what would you do differently?
Take Vincent Scully’s art history class. I talked myself out of taking it because he required everyone to do a drawing assignment, and I thought I couldn’t do it.
The most embarrassing moment of your career is …
I described a prominent official in a page-one story as “the late …” rather than “the former …” He lacked a sense of humor about the situation. Later, I learned he had only recently recovered from a serious illness.
What advice do you have for Yale students?
Stop asking for advice so much.
Most importantly, why is Yale better than Harvard?
Because at Yale, you’d ask that as a question rather than assuming it as a given.