Covering senators, firebrands, and the Minnesotan who would be president
By Jeremy Herb '08
Just before I finished graduate school in 2009, my class at the Columbia School of Journalism put out a yearbook that included “most likely to...” superlatives. Mine? “Most likely to fly the flag at half mast when newspapers die.”
I caught the journalism bug in the Benson basement working for The Santa Clara (Jack Gillum '06 was my first editor), and most recently it's taken me to Washington, D.C., where I'm a correspondent for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Over the past few years, the career I'm pursuing has exploded before my eyes: jobs decimated, newspapers closed, and the fundamental nature of the work changed dramatically. But even if the future business model for newspapers and journalism has yet to be solved, I'm not too worried, because it's clear the appetite for news remains—especially in Washington.
Amid the cacophony of political chatter in today's media environment from cable TV, blogs, and social media, reporters in Washington who still try to practice objective journalism are more important than ever to get readers, listeners, and viewers past the partisan spin. My job mainly focuses on the Minnesota congressional delegation, covering the antics of comedian-turned-senator Al Franken, Congresswoman and Tea Party firebrand Michele Bachmann, and presidential hopeful former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
As one of just three reporters in Washington from Minnesota news organizations (two work for the Star Tribune), I routinely break news that resonates throughout the state and beyond. I primarily write stories for the print newspaper. But the work hardly stops there, as it might have 10 or even five years ago. I also post multiple times a day to our politics blog, interact with readers on Twitter, and shoot and edit videos for the paper's website.
Even my competition in Washington has changed. For decades, the Twin Cities had a newspaper war between the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune and St. Paul-based Pioneer Press. But the Pioneer Press no longer has a Washington reporter; the Star Tribune's competitor is now web-only news site MinnPost. As for the Star Tribune, it is rebounding after going through bankruptcy in 2009.
While I didn't get into journalism to produce videos, I've embraced the technology and tried to soak up as much as I can. At the same time, the core reporting skills I first learned at SCU—interviewing, distilling information, and seeing things with a skeptical eye—remain the most essential part of the job. That won't change, even if the medium does.
I won't deny there's a whole lot of uncertainty in my business. I worry fairly regularly about repaying school loans in a low-paying profession where there's no guarantee my job will still exist tomorrow. But I have no intention of abandoning what's the best job in the world on a good day—and still a pretty good one the rest of the time. I'm having a blast witnessing history happen before my eyes, and I don't plan to stop now. I even have reason for optimism: In February, the paper expanded its Washington bureau to three reporters, and Minnesota Public Radio is adding a D.C. correspondent, too.
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