There’s an audible sense of panic in Ruby Cramer’s voice when she answers the phone at our scheduled interview time. “Oh god, I’m so sorry,” she says, cutting me off after I identify myself. “Can we do it tomorrow? Literally, any time tomorrow.” The BuzzFeed politics reporter, who’s currently both trailing Anthony Weiner—filing long narrative pieces from his mayoral campaign trail—and covering Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s senate race is very busy. I wait for tomorrow, but my call goes straight to voicemail. We hatch a new plan: Cramer will text me her ideal time when she gets into the office, and I’ll call at her command. I spend the morning refreshing my cellphone, over and over again, and send myself a text to make sure my reception’s working: “Ruby Cramer text test,” I write. It’s the only text I get that morning.
Later that day, news of Weiner’s latest sex(ting) scandal—paging Carlos Danger!—hits the Web, and Cramer posts a polished profile of Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, in response. When the chaos clears, I manage to get Cramer on the phone. “I am so sorry,” she said. “Literally, it’s all my fault.” Or just an inevitable side effect of life on the campaign trail with America’s most infamous candidate.
Now that the New York City mayoral race is in full swing, and so many of its candidates are so colorful, what’s your beat like?
It’s been interesting covering a city race from the perspective of BuzzFeed, because we are a national outlet, and we have a national readership, and there hasn’t always been a huge interest in this race. I think really when Anthony Weiner got in the race in May, that’s when my editor really said, “You have to go into this full time.” You have to go from doing nothing on this to spending half your summer on it. [Weiner] just made the race something that people were watching nationally. So I really went from being not in it at all to throwing myself into it.
What’s a typical day like for you while covering the campaign?
It’s different day to day. I try to get out. If I have been sitting in the office all day, I definitely don’t feel like I’m doing my job. I’ve gotten out to see—I sound like such an amateur-slash-tourist—but I’ve gotten to see parts of the city I haven’t seen before. The fact that some of these events require me to take three subways and a bus out to southeast Queens. I love that.
Most of us think of BuzzFeed reporters as sitting in front of a computer all day, but so many of your stories are very anecdotal and scene-based. Is that normal?
There are some reporters who are operators themselves; they’re really good at getting people to reveal stuff on the phone. I’m not as good at that. It’s funny, because we do have that reputation, completely. I think one of the first days I was out with Anthony Weiner, I went over and introduced myself, like: “I’m Ruby Cramer from BuzzFeed,” and I was about to launch into a question and he was like, “BuzzFeed? You actually go out for stuff? You actually leave your office.” But I don’t blame him for saying that; I get that a lot. I think the scene pieces are fun, and the candidates are such that it’s a personality-based race as much as it’s based on issues.
What are some of your favorite stories so far, and how did you get them?
I liked doing the Rockaways piece [“Anthony Weiner, Feeling ‘So Right,’ Gets Back to His Base in Rockaway”]. With that piece, I saw his schedule for the day, and he had a bunch of stops that day, but he had this beach walk in the afternoon for like an hour. I thought, okay, I have to go because that’s the community that’s really—I think I called it his base. But those were his constituents when he was in Congress, and that’s where a lot of the people really did love him. Anthony Weiner was someone who was in Congress for 12 years and only passed one bill, but what he does have a good record in was constituent services. I run into people who say, “I remember one time when I called Anthony Weiner and got my street lamps fixed.” It was just kind of a fun day, and of course he was talking about “This feels so right” over and over and over again. It’s an interesting picture too: Anthony Weiner barefoot on the beach basically just loving regional politics.