Teen editor Gabe Fleisher helps people understand politics
A quick scan of the newsletter “Wake Up to Politics” might give the impression that it’s like any other roundup of political news. There’s your presidential campaign coverage, congressional news, Supreme Court updates and White House agenda, all presented in a non-partisan way.
But a closer look reveals distinctions. For one thing, the five-year-old newsletter recently went on its annual hiatus while the editor-in-chief was at summer camp. During its normal routine of five mornings a week, the free newsletter is produced between homework and high school. Each one starts with editor Gabe Fleisher announcing that he’s reporting from “WUTP world HQ in my bedroom.”
At 14, Gabe may be young for a political writer, but his interest in politics and journalism is anything but immature. With the help of Microsoft OneNote and Word, he’s channeling a lifelong passion for politics into helping people better understand the world around them, from government to public affairs.
“I’m really passionate about politics and I think it’s a privilege to be able to inform people,” says the University City, Missouri, ninth grader. After starting his newsletter when he was 9, Gabe now has a growing audience of more than 1,000 subscribers and 3,200 Twitter followers, who include politicians, authors and political journalists from Bill Moyers to Jake Tapper. He has also been profiled on NPR and in The Washington Post and Politico.
“It is really sad for me to see how few people are politically engaged, so I try to give my readers a comprehensive but understandable look at what’s happening in politics,” Gabe says. “It’s not always easy, but it’s really fun and very satisfying to know I might be helping people stay informed.”
This year’s presidential election is also a particularly exciting time for him, with more people interested in and frustrated with politics, he says.
“A lot of people are fed up with ‘politics as usual,’ and in the months and years to come, we’re going to find out if that’s a temporary frustration, or if the normal battle lines of American politics are really going to shift forever,” Gabe says. “A lot of Americans are no longer satisfied with scripted, professional politicians, and it’s been very interesting to watch the movements that anger has fueled.”
Part of what makes Gabe’s newsletters so informative is his in-depth content, which comes from a longtime interest in reading about American history and government. As an early reader, he had loved learning about the Constitution and the founding of America, and could recite the names of all U.S. presidents and vice presidents in chronological order by the time he was about 5.
“When he was little, you could say number 17, and he could tell you who the president was and the vice president,” says his mother, Amy Fleisher. “He could recite them backwards and forwards.”
When Gabe was 6, he devoured news stories about the 2008 presidential election and was thrilled to go to Washington, D.C., and watch Barack Obama’s inauguration. By second and third grades, he was reading political and historical tomes, including Ted Kennedy’s memoir “True Compass,” “The Audacity to Win” by Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, and “Team of Rivals” about Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. Family vacations almost always included visits to presidential libraries.
His journalism skills also have early roots, evidenced by a book he wrote when he was 11. He had researched the history of his elementary school, founded in 1924, and uncovered little-known details of a famous gift to the school: a portrait of Harry S. Truman.
In third grade, Gabe started his newsletter by writing summaries of political stories and emailing them to his sole subscriber — his mom. She began sharing them with friends and family, and today people from around the country read Wake Up to Politics.
“It comes from a pure place. He drives it himself,” says his mom, who still needs to do some automotive driving to political events. But she and her husband do not help Gabe write, edit, research or get press credentials. “It’s been an exciting journey,” she says.
As the newsletter’s only writer, Gabe works hard, rising at 6 a.m. on school days to scan the morning’s news. After organizing his work in OneNote on his Lenovo Windows 10 laptop, he pounds out a summary in Word and emails it to subscribers by 7:30 in the morning. Then he grabs his backpack and heads out the door for school.
Over the years, Gabe has attended and covered political rallies, presidential debates and caucus meetings. He’s interviewed political figures from retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
But this fall, he’ll be busier than ever, with a high-stakes presidential election just weeks away and the start of his first year in high school.
“One of my goals is to take what’s happening in Washington and on the campaign trail, break it down and make sure people understand what’s happening. And that they know what their leaders are doing, so they can keep their leaders accountable,” Gabe says.
“And hopefully on Election Day, they go out and vote and make informed choices, whatever that choice may be.”
To learn more about Gabe, go to Microsoft’s Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr pages.
Lead image: Gabe Fleisher, editor-in-chief of Wake Up to Politics.