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For alum, a shortcut to punditry

A regular reader of the Washington Post and a political junkie to boot, Jeremy Haber '06 wouldn't have imagined a month ago that he would one day land among the top four finalists in the newspaper's "America's Next Great Pundit Contest."

Haber, who is currently enrolled in a joint J.D. /M.B.A. program at Harvard, learned about the competition through the Post's online edition.

"The political implications of the 2010 Census for the 2012 presidential (election) was something I had been thinking about writing up as an op-ed," Haber said. When he saw a promotion for the contest, he finally mustered up the motivation to write the piece.

Haber's submission, "The numbers don't look good for Democrats," argues that congressional redistricting due to population growth in the South and Southwest will ultimately aid Republicans in their campaign to regain the White House.

One possible cause of the region's population increase, Haber wrote, is the influx of undocumented immigrants. "I just thought it was an under-reported story and liked the irony," he said.

About a month ago, a panel of Post editors chose 10 finalists from a batch of 4,800 entries, and the winner may be announced as soon as today, according to the newspaper's Web site.

According to the competition guidelines, the winner of the contest will receive the opportunity to write a weekly column for the Post for 13 weeks, at a rate of $200 per column. The Post promises its competition will set the "promising pundit on a path to become the next byline in demand, the talking head every show wants to book, the voice that helps the country figure out what's really going on."

Haber made it through four rounds of the five-part competition, which required contestants to blog their thoughts, write columns and field readers' questions in a live question-and-answer session. After each round, editors and columnists from the Post commented on the aspiring pundits' work, and readers voted to determine who would be eliminated. Some of those readers regularly offered up criticism and praise in the comments section of the competitors' posts.

The judges praised Haber for his skill as a reporter and for having the best single answer in the question-and-answer session — in response to a question on the Israeli-Palestian conflict. "There is a leadership vacuum on both sides," Haber said.

For the most part, Haber had great freedom in choosing the topics for his pieces, which ranged from gay marriage to the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that provides lodging to veterans recovering from injuries.

Though he was eliminated a week ago, Haber isn't at all bitter about where he placed in the contest.

"I never expected to be a finalist," he said of being selected as one of the top 10 contestants. "I got to get interviews with people I would have never been able to talk to otherwise, and I had fun with it."

For his blog posts, Haber spoke with a number of notables — Steve Pagliuca and Alan Khazei, two of the candidates running for the vacant U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, and Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, among other big names.

At Brown, where he concentrated in political science, Haber didn't write for any campus publications, though he worked for one semester at the mayor's office. After graduating, he traveled through Tanzania, volunteered in Rwanda and worked at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he did research on American politics and elections for over two years.

At the moment, Haber is unsure whether he will pursue a career in journalism after graduate school.

"I plan on taking my law school exams first and worrying about future writing after that," he said.


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