Political Journalism

With Election Day just days away and coverage of the campaign season dominating the news, aspiring writers and journalists may be considering political journalism as a career path.  Journalism is a broad field in which reporters and correspondents can choose to report on a variety of topics.  For example, there are sports journalists, entertainment journalists, trade journalists, etc. 

Political journalism focuses on government, politics and political candidates. It covers different segments of political activity, such as local, national or international news. Political journalists report on the activities of elected officials, political processes, political campaigns, and elections. It includes reporting political news, and conducting investigative and watchdog reporting to ensure that the public has access to information about political activity.  Political journalism applies to print, digital and broadcast media. 

Political journalists may also report news in the form of the opinion journalism genre.  Therein lies one of the biggest challenges in being a political journalist – providing objective reporting about events.  Once a political journalist starts reporting a story from a biased perspective, they cease being a political journalist and start moving into the world of a political commentary, which is when a writer or broadcaster expresses an opinion versus simply reporting facts.

Terms like “fake news” have been tossed around quite frequently over the past 5-6 years, but accusations of biased reporting have existed for decades.  For example, FOX News and the Wall Street Journal are frequently called out as a cable network and newspaper that are overly conservative in their reporting, while the CNN and MSNBC cable channels and the New York Times newspaper are often criticized for spreading a liberal agenda.  Students with an interest in political journalism should carefully consider if they can keep their reporting objective and free from bias or if they would rather report the news from one side or the other and try to shape public opinion.

While the aforementioned media outlets report on number of topics, other smaller outlets keep the vast majority of their reporting to government and political topics only.  These should be considered as possible internship and work sites for those who are only interested in reporting in these areas. Two of the best known are Politico and The Hill.  Others popular web sites with a heavy dose of political journalism (though with partisan spin) include the Huffington Post, Breitbart, Vox and the Daily Caller.

To become a political journalist, one would follow the track they would follow to become a journalist in any specialty, by first getting general journalism experience at a college newspaper, followed by additional experience at a local newspaper, web site or broadcast outlet and work their way up from there.  A degree in English or Government is also helpful.  The majority of political journalism opportunities exist in the New York City and Washington D.C. areas.  Job opportunities in journalism are expected to grow in the future, although at a slightly slower pace than average.