Today, DistrictGPS starts a five part interview-series with TFAS alumni working in the DC area.
Jessica Taylor is an assistant editor for POLITICO’s 2010 elections page. Before joining POLITICO in November 2009, Taylor was the research director and a contributing writer for the 2010 edition of “The Almanac of American Politics.” Prior to that, she was a staff writer and online producer for NationalJournal.com, covering the 2008 presidential primaries. She has also written for National Journal, Convention Daily and United Press International. In 2005, Jessica was a student at the Institute on Political Journalism with TFAS and returned in 2007 as a Program Advisor.
Tell us a little about your current position; what is a typical day like for you?
I’m the assistant editor of our “POLITICO 2010” page covering our midterm elections, so I’m the web editor and also a writer on our politics team.
I’m not sure there’s ever a “typical” day at POLITICO. I start working from home every morning at 6 a.m. to rearrange the page from the night before, looking through new stories that have been posted and reading through news clips from overnight.
From there, the day usually doesn’t stop, as we’re getting breaking news, chasing story leads and looking through updated polling and rankings on the key House, Senate and governor’s races we’re tracking. I’m helping edit stories as well as writing stories on my own.
On many days, I’m spanning many different mediums—my primary work online, working on a story for our print edition, or offering commentary and analysis on the radio or television. Sometimes when you think the news may be done for the day, it never really is.
What is your favorite part of your job?
While it may be hard to believe, I love the unpredictability of it. I never know what each day holds, and that’s something that drew me to journalism in the first place.
I’m incredibly fortunate, at such a young age and so early in my career, to be working at a national news organization that’s driving the political conversation in Washington and across the country every day.
I love having the opportunity to talk to key decision makers and political players. I’m watching history unfold before my eyes from a front-row seat—something I only dreamed about when I was growing up in rural Tennessee.
How do you feel TFAS prepared you for the position you’re in now?
My internship at IPJ with NationalJournal.com gave me my first introduction to online journalism. I had always envisioned working at a print publication like a newspaper or magazine, but this experience opened my eyes to the expanding online world of news.
I learned HTML and web publishing skills and how to write at a targeted political web audience. After I graduated, was hired on by them and moved to several jobs within the company before coming to POLITICO in November 2009.
TFAS provided me the first step through the gates of D.C. journalism, allowed me to make professional contacts, and also gave me lifelong friends who shared my same professional interests who are also now working in D.C. media that I still count among my closest friends and colleagues.
Do you have any words of wisdom for current and potential TFAS students, whether about your career, DC, or the TFAS program?
Experience counts the most with future employers, especially in the hyper-competitive field of journalism. Don’t discount work you do at your college newspapers—it is valuable experience that translates well into the workplace and helped me hone my management and multitasking skills.
If you’re interested in doing political journalism specifically, find a way to incorporate that. I went to college in South Carolina, so as an early presidential primary stomping ground. I was able to interview 2004 Democratic hopefuls and also caught the beginning of the 2008 primary campaign.
Use every summer to your advantage to gain even more experience, and always keep up with the contacts you make—you never know when they might be a potential employer later on!