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East Parent Writes for Time Magazine

Twitter feeds are exploding. FOX News and CNN are turned on across the nation.

It’s May 1, 2011.

People are tuning in to confirm if it is true — if Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

East parent David Von Drehle is doing something else. He is contacting Time magazine.

“I got on a phone call that night, as soon as the president announced [that Osama Bin Laden had been killed],” Von Drehle said. “I said: I’m here, I’m fresh, we got to do this. It is the biggest news event of the year. We have to rush out another magazine.”

Time had just finished two magazines that week for the first time in the magazine’s history, covering the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. And Von Drehle, an Editor-at-Large for Time felt that a third should be published.

Von Drehle started working. The story had to be finished in a little over 24 hours and he was the person to get that done.

Reporters around the world began to work — reporters at the Pentagon, White House, in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Time contacted terrorism experts and gathered sources that had any connections with the mission. Information was posted on the Time website as Von Drehle was getting it. There was little sleep. Von Drehle slept for about three hours from the time that he started writing to the time that he finished. His first draft was completed the next night following the revealing of the news.

“On a breaking news story like that, where you have pieces all around the world where much of the information is highly secret or highly classified, where these SEAL team members who were involved had not been even debriefed fully,” Von Drehle said. “That first rough draft of history is sometimes a little rough and  you have to do the best you can and understand that you are probably going back and going back, correcting things and clarifying things.”

After completing this story, he added it to his list of cover stories that he’s completed for Time. Von Drehle has written cover stories on the 2012 presidential election, when the Supreme Court ruled on ObamaCare and when President Obama was elected and named Time’s 2008 Person of the Year.


He started his career early. During his senior year in high school in Aurora, Colo., his journalism sponsor, Peter Mindock, got him a job working in the sports department of The Denver Post. According to the staff, he was the youngest writer in Post history to write there.

“It was kind of a screw up, when I applied, the sports editor had heard that I was a senior and he thought that I was a college senior when I went in to apply for the job,” Von Drehle said. “By the time he figured out that I was still in high school, he had already offered me a job.”

He continued to work part-time at the Denver Post until he graduated from the University of Denver. He then received a Marshall Scholarship, a scholarship given to American students from the British government to attend graduate school at the University of Oxford in England. There, he received a Master of Letters degree.

After graduate school, Von Drehle wanted to continue his career in journalism. He moved to Miami and worked for the Miami Herald for six years, where he was a reporter for four and a New York City correspondent for two. He then started working for the Washington Post at the end of 1991. While he was there, he interviewed politicians — George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He also interacted with other reporters, one that would become his wife.  Von Drehle met his wife, Karen Ball, then a reporter for the Associated Press as they were both covering the 1992 presidential campaign.

“I had just gone to work for the Washington Post newspaper in Washington and was covering the campaign also,” Von Drehle said. “So we would find ourselves on airplanes flying around with Bill Clinton or someone like that.”

While at the Washington Post, Von Drehle covered a variety of areas — Arts and Entertainment, Features and Politics.

And then, in 2006, he was approached by Time.

“I had several friends at Time that were very long time friends,” Von Drehle said. “We talked back and forth about whether I would ever work there for a lot of years and I didn’t expect that it would ever work out, but then they approached me with kind of a dream job and at that point, I couldn’t say no.”

Von Drehle has not always imagined himself as a journalist working for one of the most well-known publications in the world.

“I was kind of mixed up as a college student,” Von Drehle said. “On one level I wanted to be a college professor, but on another level, I pictured myself being a journalist. When I was younger, that was more of a goal to be at Sports Illustrator than to be at Time, but then I became a news reporter.”

Von Drehle has the opportunity to pitch stories and write in the areas that he is interested in. In his spare time, he has written four books, with his most recent book, “Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year,” that was published in late October.

“I would like to write some more books,” Von Drehle said. “My goal at this point is really always to stay fresh and interesting, not fall into a rut where everything starts to sound the same.”
He stays connected with Time while he resides in Kansas City by speaking to his boss, Michael Duffy about once a week. While Von Drehle gets opportunities to interview people like President Obama and cover historical events, he still remembers the road he took to get there.

“I have to remind myself that if anybody had told me when I was 17-years-old and walking into The Denver Post for the first time that someday I’d have the job that I have now, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Von Drehle said. “When I do get tired of the world, I just remind myself how lucky I am.”

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Anne Willman

Anne is the print Co-Editor-in-Chief. She enjoys writing, designing and broadcasting. Anne will be playing golf for the K-State Wildcats next year. Read Full »

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