Jamie Stiehm says she was a journal-ist before she became a journalist, as a diary-keeper most of her life. Cities are her favorite things, and several of the great American cities appear as datelines in her widely published work.
Jamie worked as an assignment editor at the CBS News bureau in London, where at 25 or 26, she came to a realization: She cared about the words, not so much the pictures, in news-gathering. This was her first paid job in journalism, and she adored almost every minute of it. But the best times were when the scripts were written and she could peek over a producer's shoulder and help a little.
Then, after sending an op-ed essay everywhere on both sides of the Atlantic, The Boston Globe published it, with a drawing: "An Anglophile's Disillusionment." The lede is etched in her mind: "I have seen the Ugly American, and I am It."
When Jamie and her English husband (now ex) moved to the States and set up shop in San Francisco, she caught the eye and ear of Ed Clendaniel, Perspective editor of the San Jose Mercury News. Clearly, luck of the Irish. That paper published most of her early pieces.
During this period, Jamie wrote an op-ed for The Christian Science Monitor on a liberal's mixed feelings about Ronald Reagan. Every byline gave a small vote of confidence, but when Jamie moved to Washington, she encountered a second tradition of journalism that frowned on her ambitions. Summed up by the legendary Bill Marimow, then deputy editor at The Baltimore Sun: "You can't be a great columnist without being a great reporter first." She learned how to be a reporter, first at The Hill, a scrappy start-up led by Martin Tolchin and Al Eisele.
In a few years, Marimow and John Carroll, editor of The Sun, hired her as a metropolitan reporter. By this point, Jamie was syndicated by The New York Times Syndicate -- in a package called the New American News Service -- and had published op-eds across the nation, including in The Washington Post, the Wisconsin State Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News and The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Marimow said she had to give that up, and so she did.
At The Sun, Jamie learned to cover everything, from a murder trial to a snowy Opening Day for the Orioles. She learned to interview just about anybody, from the Catholic cardinal, to the denizens of Little Italy. In the decade spent reporting there, she saw the golden high-noon era of Carroll and Marimow at an excellent big-city newspaper -- and saw it set.
The time to stay was over, and Washington beckoned. Invited to be a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Jamie broke ground researching a biography of Lucretia Mott, the famed Quaker anti-slavery and women's rights champion whose statue stands in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
In 2009, she became a regular on the opinion page of USNews.com. Jamie also recently became a contributor to The New York Times Civil War series, "Disunion."
Jamie, born during the Thousand Days of the JFK presidency, witnessed the tumult of the 1960s through a young child's eyes. Raised partly in progressive Madison, Wisc., she loved the lively conversations on the university campus by Lake Mendota and missed Madison when her family of five moved to California. Jamie went to public schools there, graduating from Santa Monica High School. At 17, she returned to the East, to Swarthmore College in Philadelphia, the co-ed liberal arts college, which could not have been more different than carefree "Samohi." That's where the love affair with history began. And the rest is ... we shall see!