Woodbridge teen is newsman, but with homework
WOODBRIDGE >> No politician or TV show host is out of reach, the way Ryan Anastasio figures it.
From “Morning Joe” Scarborough to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, he’s scored one-to-one interviews with just about every influential figure in the state to add to his photo collection on Instagram.
Well, almost everyone.
“I tried to get Trump,” Ryan said matter-of-factly. “I was on the phone with Hope Hicks when she wasn’t a big deal. She said he’s a busy guy.”
That would be the interim White House communications director, Hicks, who is from Greenwich. Ryan got her contact information off a press release.
What media outlet did you say you’re with, again?
“Raving Ryan,” the 2-year-old news website and YouTube channel created by Ryan, for whom expectations are almost boundless. Except for geometry and chemistry homework, which his mother, Rachel Anastasio, reminds him is waiting.
At 15 years old, Ryan is the youngest member of the political press corps in the state — not that anyone is carding this adolescent Wolf Blitzer, who even has his own coffee mugs for guests of his show.
Ryan, a sophomore at Amity Regional High School, is extended many of the same professional courtesies as working members of the media by the political establishment.
“Dave Walker, he said, ‘Call me Dave,’ so I called him Dave,” Ryan said of the former U.S. comptroller general and Republican gubernatorial candidate, who he interviewed last month at Walker’s waterfront home in Bridgeport.
Ryan keeps a running list of questions for his interview subjects in Google Docs. His curriculum includes a daily reading of The Wall Street Journal.
“I see more maturity and more initiative and passion in him than I see in most adults,” said state House Republican Leader Themis Klarides.
Klarides, a veteran Derby lawmaker, is the first woman to lead her caucus. She is friends with Ryan’s family and gave him his big break in October 2015, when she sat down with the then-seventh-grader at the town library for a one-to-one interview, a la Charlie Rose.
“I was a little nervous,” Ryan said, explaining that he is over his butterflies now.
Klarides, who is weighing a run for governor in 2018, helped Ryan make some initial contacts in the GOP.
“He certainly doesn’t need me (any more),” Klarides said. “I may be calling him for help.”
Ryan has an entourage, so to speak. He’s got a driver, his mother, a local real estate agent.
His producer is his younger brother, Sam, 12, who has accompanied Ryan to most of his interviews, helping to set up microphones and tripods. Mounted on one, a Canon DSLR camera. On another, an iPhone.
“Sam doesn’t like handlers,” Ryan said of politicians’ gatekeepers, who will often sit in on interviews and signal when it’s time to wrap up.
His brother is in seventh grade.
“We’ve evolved a long way,” Sam said.
They try to post at least one video interview a month online, but have logged as many as three or four in a two-week span.
In addition to homework, band and swim practices get in the way. Ryan plays the trumpet and swims competitively for Woodbridge Aquatic Club. He attended sleep-away camp this summer — and he eats, sleeps and breathes politics.
“So Lembo dropped out?” were the first words out of Ryan’s mouth during a recent visit to his home, just hours after State Comptroller Kevin Lembo passed on a run for governor.
Ryan interviewed Lembo in February.
Ryan’s who’s-who list of interview subjects spans the political spectrum. Along with Murphy, it includes Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman; U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty; and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, all Democrats.
On the Republican side, he has interviewed former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, state Sens. George Logan and Tony Hwang, and state GOP Chairman J.R. Romano, who said Ryan requested a media credential for this month’s Prescott Bush Awards Dinner fundraiser.
“He may be in the press room with you guys,” Romano said.
Last year, Ryan and his father, John, a local accountant, went to a Republican primary debate at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, where he took a selfie with Jeb Bush and shook hands with President Donald Trump.
In June 2016, he visited 30 Rockefeller Plaza for a sit-down with Scarborough, giving the MSNBC host and New Canaan resident one of his coffee mugs.
“Saw Mika,” Ryan said of Scarborough’s co-host and fiancee, Mika Brzezinski.
At times, Ryan said, he’ll go off the record. “Sometimes, the small talk, (we) do,” he said.
Some interviews have proved more elusive than others for this cub reporter, however.
“I haven’t been able to get Blumenthal,” Ryan said of the state’s senior U.S. senator, Richard Blumenthal, whose accessibility to the media and omnipresence once inspired the line that “Blumenthal was unavoidable for comment.”
So what does Ryan, who listed NBC’s Lester Holt and Scarborough as his favorite TV newsmen, want to be when he grows up?
“Probably more a politician or a lawyer,” he said.
Reach Neil Vigdor at firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-625-4436 and on Twitter @gettinviggy.