Focus on … Political Journalism

📚 Political Journalism: What Is It?

Ideally, political journalism should function as an information provider, watchdog, and forum for political discussions, thereby helping citizens understand political matters and help prevent abuses of power. Apart from normative ideals, political journalism is shaped by factors at several levels of analysis, including the system level, the media organizational level, and the individual level. Not least important for political journalism is the close, interdependent, and contentious relationship with political actors, shaping both the processes and the content of political journalism. Source: Oxford University Press

Here are 7 characteristics of effective accountability journalists, according to the American Press Institute:

  • Exhibit broad curiosity; eagerly adapt to new technologies and platforms.
  • Think about multiple audiences.
  • Work hard to create context for their audiences.
  • Smartly balance their time on story choices and audience interactions.
  • Spend considerable time building relationships with sources, readers.
  • Build connections and teamwork within their own newsrooms.
  • Find their own way and direct their own work.

🔍 Insider Tips

What are some of the best ways to prepare oneself for a career in political journalism?

WRITE. This article from Roll Call says, “You need good clips. When I hire folks for our politics desk, I examine their writing just as closely as their résumés. Spoiler alert for future applicants: I give finalists a writing test and ask them to drum up a few story pitches. Make sure you have at least five strong stories for your portfolio before you graduate, preferably from a couple different publications. Prospective employers will probably Google your byline as well to check out your less-than-stellar clips.”

NETWORK. Networking doesn’t mean asking for a job or internship; rather, it’s about gathering information and advice from as many people as possible. Fellow students, Tufts professors and alumni, family and friends — many people would love to talk with you about what they do! If you haven’t already explored the community in The Herd, the Career Center’s flash-mentoring database, check it out! The Tufts alumni listed here have volunteered to speak with you about their career paths. You can search by Industry Expertise, e.g., Communications, Media & Publishing, by Location, Major, or simply Search by keyword, e.g., Politics or Political. And remember: Just because someone isn’t doing exactly what you might want to do, this doesn’t mean it can’t be a great conversation. Speaking to a variety of individuals will give you a broader view of your options — and potentially, lead to more connections with interesting people!

BE SKEPTICAL, NOT CYNICAL. I enjoyed this article from a veteran Guardian Australia reporter. She says, “Political reporting today requires tenacity, at times it requires courage, it requires nuance – a vastly under-rated attribute in our ‘shouty’ world. It requires the capacity to keep your feet, both with the new material that thrusts itself to you 24/7, and with the political class who are always intent on cajoling, hectoring or otherwise persuading you to accept the rightness and inherent virtue of their various propositions. It requires a deep skepticism, which should never be confused with a deep cynicism. As Oscar Wilde once observed, a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

💼 Sample Employers + Job/Internships in Political Journalism & Public Affairs

  • POLITICO — Politics Reporter, Editorial Intern, Digital Producer, Audience Strategist & more
  • Cogent Strategies — Digital Marketing Associate
  • Center for American Progress — Constituency Media Associate (Spanish-speaking), Data Analyst, Digital Media Strategist, Events Video Producer
  • Progressive Policy Institute — Policy Internship, Communication Fellowship, Social Policy Intern (fall positions filled; keep an eye out for spring & summer!)

🌐 Helpful Resources & Professional Associations

  • Tom Manatos Jobs — Subscription resource for those interested in campaign work, roles on the Hill, and related jobs & internships. Search by keyword, e.g., “journalist” or “reporter” to find positions of interest.
  • Opportunities in Public Affairs — Job and internship opportunities in the Washington, DC area focused on government, public relations, advocacy, and media. Search by Category, e.g., Research, Writing, & Journalism, or Keyword.
  • — Job and internship search resource for political, public affairs, and related jobs and internships (try free for 30 days)
  • Society of Professional Journalists — professional organization that describes itself as the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior
  • Fourth Estate — a professional organization whose mission is to contribute to a healthy society by fostering, supporting and incubating a sustainable and vibrant free press
By Susannah Krenn
Susannah Krenn Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing / Career Advisor