This week’s story on millionaire philanthropists who help underprivileged children (p. 74) drew on two of Washington correspondent Jane Sims Podesta’s areas of expertise: kids and reporting. “All of my kids have been exposed to Mom’s reporting. As a TIME stringer, I flew to Walter Mon-dale’s getaway in Northern Minnesota in a rattletrap plane when I was expecting my daughter Laura,” says Podesta of her eldest, now 10. “I was pregnant with Brian [now 8] when I was following the Palm Beach scene for Women’s Wear Daily. I was pregnant with P.J. [Patrick, now 21 months] when I was interviewing [Navy spy] John Walker’s girlfriend for PEOPLE. Days away from motherhood, I looked so innocent that she talked with me as if I had been her college roommate. One editor was saying novenas that I’d make it back before the baby emerged.”
Luckily, few of the deadlines that Podesta, 38, meets each week are matters of life and birth. She has filed reports on politicians Gary Hart (“I found him aloof and self-important”) and Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who brandished a 10-foot pole when Podesta asked an untouchable question. Assignments have run from the absurd—reading dialogue from Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dallas reprinted in the Justice Department’s report on pornography—to the profoundly sad. During an interview this summer, Jehan Sadat told how she still keeps her husband’s bullet-riddled uniform.
Raised in Colorado and Arizona, Podesta edited her high school paper and met her future husband, Don, now an assistant foreign editor for the Washington Post, at Arizona State University. A career as a “journalism gypsy” led her from Washington, D.C., where she attended graduate school and interned at the Post, to papers in Arizona, Minnesota and Miami before she returned to Washington and joined the PEOPLE bureau there.
This week’s story on generous millionaires intrigued Podesta. “For years I’ve harbored a secret desire for someone to hand me a million dollars,” she says. “Who hasn’t? I remember Falls Church, Va., millionaire George Kettle telling me, quite seriously, ‘You can only buy so many Cadillacs and Mercedeses and boats and airplanes and second and third homes.’ And I’m sitting there without a Cadillac, a boat, an airplane or a second home and I’m shaking my head thinking, ‘Yes, George, yes! Maybe it would get boring after a while. But it would be fun to give it a try.’ ”