Tech titan Kara Swisher returned to her roots with a “state visit” to Washington and was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by the Washington Women’s Technology Network last week.
Swisher had the crowd roaring with anecdotes from her early career and spellbound by her comments about technology and media today. She started her journalism career in the mailroom at the Washington Post and as a college stringer to the newspaper after she complained to an editor about bad facts in one of its stories. After time at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and some other jobs, as well as a Post internship, she began her real career reporting for the business section. She covered local retail, including the travails of the infamous Haft family breakdown. After taking a break in Russia, her then-editor, David Ignatius, asked her to return to DC to cover new online services companies, such as AOL, which was based in the DC suburbs. After writing a book on the history of AOL she made her own history in coverage of technology and the launch of All Things Digital — first a conference and then a Web site.
Kara tickled the news producers in the crowd by talking about her TV career as a staffer for “The McLaughlin Group,” writing fast and furious copy for the panelists including MOR-TON, but never calling McLaughlin, “Dr. McLaughlin,” as he famously insisted. Maura Corbett, the Glen Echo Group, reminded Kara that they traveled the country with Jim Barksdale to talk about the Internet in the late 1990s.
The dinner took place at Café Milano and owner Franco Nuschese joined Tammy Haddad, Betsy Fischer Martin, Connie Milstein, Ellen Tauscher and Holly Page as co-hosts. Kara, not only attended nearby Georgetown University, but she told the group she used to sell Chipwiches on this very chi-chi corner of Georgetown.
Usually asking questions from her bright red D chair, she answered the policy and technology questions from WWTN members Twitter’s Mindy Finn, Google’s Ginny Hunt, Facebook’s Marne Levine, former Chief of Staff for First Lady Laura Bush Anita McBride, POLITICO COO Kim Kingsley, Gibraltar’s Kelley McCormick, ABC News Bureau Chief Robin Sproul,TIME’s Jay Newton-Small, and Sarah Start Fund’s Lindsay Ellenbogen.
Inspired by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s group in Silicon Valley, WWTN’s membership includes the top women in technology, media and politics. Their mission is to leverage the power and resources of Washington women in the technology and media communities for positive impact here and around the world.
Ambassador David Gross headlined the first WWTN event to discuss the upcoming International Telecommunications Union meeting and the push by Russia and other countries for global Internet regulation. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and WWTN founding members Hilary Rosen and Susan Molinari attended the luncheon at the Jefferson Hotel.
WWTN presented Kara with a White House hoodie, hat and cup and of course, a presidential motorcade set for her two kids. The hoodie — which the swag specialist, pronounced “good quality” — was a tribute to her famous interview with Mark Zuckerberg at a D conference, where he began sweating profusely until Kara coaxed him out of his hoodie. She brought the house down when she observed the odd symbols on the inside of Zuckerberg’s jacket and proclaimed that she had found the “lluminati.” The rest of the WWTN crowd went home each with a sacred “Meet The Press” coffee mug.
As the crowd gathered for a “class photo” with Swisher, members laughed recalling one reporter’s comment to Swisher from the early Internet days that she was “covering CB Radio.”
Said Swisher then and also now: “The kids seem to love it.”