Sunday, March 6, 2016

Young Reporters, Steeped in Social Media, Accustomed to Digital Speed and Always-On World, Grab Spotlight on U.S. Campaign Trail

This is really fascinating, although, except for Time's Zeke Miller, it's all women.

And it's weird, because when I first really started following politics back in the early 1980s, it was the old-timers who were all the most prolific, and authoritative. That's when shows like "This Week with David Brinkley" were the rage. Even CNN was still catching on back then.

Nowadays, fresh out of college and you're reporting from the presidential campaign trail? Pretty amazing.

At NYT, "Millennial Reporters Grab the Campaign-Trail Spotlight":

When the last presidential race was in its early stages, Katie Glueck was a senior at Northwestern University. Now covering the Ted Cruz campaign for Politico, Ms. Glueck, 26, belongs to a select group of millennial reporters who have a front-row seat to the greatest political show on earth.

While youth is a virtue for those covering the turbulent 2016 campaign, it has been known to get in the way now and then. Caitlin Huey-Burns, 28, who covers primaries and caucuses for the website RealClear Politics, said, “I often get asked by voters if I’m writing for the school paper.”

Rosie Gray, 26, who covers the campaign for BuzzFeed, said that her age is only occasionally a factor. “Honestly, the times I feel the most young is when I’m talking to a voter on the trail and I sound like a pipsqueak saying, ‘Excuse me, ma’am, can I ask you a question?’” she said. “A lot of that had to do with how you present yourself and how you act. You can either act like a young little thing or not.”

And she disputed the notion that her age is much of an issue. “I’m not that young,” she said. “I’m 26. Thirty is staring me down the barrel of a gun.”

But Maralee Schwartz, a former longtime political editor at The Washington Post, said that the rise of these correspondents is new indeed.

“They’ve become much more prominent,” Ms. Schwartz said, adding that 2012 “was the first year that you saw how many younger reporters were on the trail. One veteran reporter called me from the bus, stunned, saying: ‘I am the oldest person here. One of them brought brownies.’ They may lack experience, but they can keep pace with the changes and demands and responsibilities of the web.”


Unlike some of their more experienced colleagues, the reporters under 30 also seem to accept the notion that they are always on the clock, that keeping up a running patter with news-hungry audiences via Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is as much part of the job as filing a 550-word dispatch.

“There are points where I have to remind myself, ‘You haven’t tweeted all day,’ because it is an important part of building our brands and sharing our work, and that doesn’t come to me naturally,” said MJ Lee, a 29-year-old politics reporter for CNN. “But there’s no going back.

“You have no excuse,” continued Ms. Lee, who is married to Alexander Burns, who covers politics for The New York Times. “You have to be up-to-date on everything, because you can be. You have your iPhone and you have Twitter. Why aren’t you up-to-date on the latest thing that happened two minutes ago? When I get on a plane and it’s a small plane and there’s no Wi-Fi, I get uncomfortable.”

Ms. Lee, a 2009 Georgetown University graduate who majored in government and Chinese, said: “Yesterday, we went to dinner, and for some reason I stopped getting email on my phone. And that made me really nervous. And it was maybe 17 minutes.”

The energy required to maintain a constant online presence is just part of the challenge. To write or broadcast anything connected with politics in 2016 is to be exposed to instant backlash. Even a deeply reported and elegantly written campaign story is likely to draw malicious attack.
Well, I'm getting a kick out of the "always-on" digital culture reference, although I hate it, since to me it implies that these young cub reporters don't really know anything. They don't have a personal wealth of political knowledge, and should they come up short, well, there's always Wikipedia.

But then, I'm online much of the time myself, reading the news, and blogging. So, I can't gripe too much about that without being hypocritical.

So, it's all good.