Fresh out of college and in search of a short-term gig as a campaign photographer, David Katz marched into the Chicago campaign office of a young, relatively unknown state senator in 2004, armed with a portfolio full of clips from his time as The Michigan Daily’s managing photo editor.
The campaign manager was impressed, and hired Katz on the spot. But the push for the open U.S. Senate seat was in its early stages and tight on cash, so Katz and the campaign manager struck a deal: He could start as a volunteer, and if their candidate prevailed in the Democratic primaries on March 16, Katz would become a paid staffer.
“I said, ‘That sounds good,’ ” Katz recalled. “ ‘When do I start?’ ”
The manager asked Katz to show up the next day. The candidate would be at a church on the South Side of Chicago.
So he showed up at the church, photographed the event and followed the candidate to his car. The candidate gave him a confused look.
“I said, ‘Oh, maybe they didn’t tell you,’ ” Katz remembered. “But the campaign manager told me to photograph you and follow you around. He said, ‘Great — jump in.’ ”
That was Katz’s first interaction with Barack Obama.
The two quickly became friends, spending as many as 14 hours per day, six days per week together on the campaign trail. In the years that followed, both during Obama’s time as senator and as president, their friendship prevailed, manifesting in regular rounds of golf.
Katz ended up moving to Washington, D.C. after Obama’s victory to work for the senator, before heading west to earn his MBA at Stanford.
His time at the White House was far from over, however. When Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign kicked into high gear, Katz returned as a campaign photographer, chronicling the senator as he traveled the country.
But as Katz followed Obama to Dublin, Ohio, for a campaign event that August — barely two months away from the general election — there was still somebody he hadn’t met. Katz remembers Obama’s words to this day:
“Senator Biden, this is David Katz. He was the photo editor of The Michigan Daily, and as a Michigan grad, I’m sorry that we have to bring him here so close to Columbus.”
The 44th president has a fondness for the University, it seems — in his seven years in office, he’s made three trips to Ann Arbor. In 2010, Katz tagged along to see the president deliver an address to the graduates at Spring Commencement.
“I got to ride on Marine One with him and land right next to the Big House and point some things out as we were in the air, like, ‘That’s the Michigan golf course, that’s where campus is.’ He appreciated those things.”
At that point, Katz was working in the White House as a special assistant to the energy secretary. He later became a senior policy adviser for manufacturing before departing for the private sector. The move brought him to San Francisco, where he currently serves as the director of sales at Quid, a research and data analytics startup.
Wherever his career has taken him, though, Katz says the time he spent at the Daily has proved invaluable.
“Everybody’s used to working on deadline and working quickly,” Katz said. “The pace at which The Michigan Daily operates is similar to the pace of a presidential campaign.”
All current and former Daily staffers know the pace at 420 Maynard Street can indeed be tough to handle. However, knowing the prospect of hearing the president of the United States utter the phrase “The Michigan Daily” isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility makes the frenetic work environment just a bit more manageable.