Federal File

May 05, 2004 1 min read

The Big Scoop

Eight-year-old Tom Kelly kicked off his journalism career in grand style recently: with an Oval Office interview with President Bush.

The scoop was an achievement for the Stanley Chronicle, the newspaper at Stanley Elementary School in Swampscott, Mass., for which an interview with the school librarian used to be considered a reportorial coup.

Tom and his 4-year-old brother, Jack, met with the president on April 22. They generously took along their mother, Madelyn Kelly, to help deliver a copy of Things Worth Fighting For, a just-published collection of articles by their late father, the writer and editor Michael Kelly.

Mr. Kelly, who was editor-at-large for The Atlantic Monthly, became the first American journalist to die in the U.S. war in Iraq. He was killed in a Humvee accident on April 3, 2003, at age 46.

Tom Kelly said that he asked Mr. Bush about “the history of his life” and about his favorite things. He also asked Mr. Bush what was the hardest thing about being president. According to Tom, the president replied, “Sending people to war.” At that point, little brother Jack chimed in with a follow-up question: “What’s scary about war?”

Tom said that Mr. Bush replied that war is scary because “people lose their lives, like your daddy.”

Michael Kelly would have been impressed with the interview, Tom said. He thought his father’s advice would have been not to spend time taking notes since he had a tape recorder. Instead, Tom said, he used his notebook to draw pictures of a helicopter and the White House.

Now, all he had left to do was write his story. On April 27, Tom was already fretting about his deadline three days away. But he said that he felt sure that even “if it doesn’t make the deadline, [the teacher] would probably let it in.”

His father, a veteran journalist, might have had something to say about that.

—Michelle R. Davis