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Alumni return to talk political reporting, midterm elections

Four GW alumni and political journalists returned to campus to talk about their reporting and the 2014 midterm elections. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer
Four GW alumni and political journalists returned to campus to talk about their reporting and the 2014 midterm elections. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer
Updated: Sept. 16, 2014 at 1:28 p.m.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Brandon Lee.

A panel of journalists who graduated from GW returned to campus to discuss their reporting experiences and the upcoming midterm elections Tuesday.

Roll Call’s Emily Cahn, Reid Wilson of the Washington Post, Shawna Thomas of “Meet the Press” and The McClatchy Company’s Vice President of News Anders Gyllenhaal met at the Jack Morton Auditorium to share their experiences with students, faculty and fellow alumni.

Here are the big moments from the evening.

1. Americans don’t vote often in midterms, but they should

Why do so few Americans vote in midterm elections, moderator and School of Media and Public Affairs associate professor Cheryl Thompson asked to kick off the discussion.

Wilson took a stab at the answer by first recognizing that the lack of enthusiasm is understandable.

“The average American is going through a tough time right now,” Wilson said. “When you struggle to make ends meet, you don’t have time to read the paper everyday.”

And while a majority of eligible voters take a pass on the midterms, 1974 GW graduate Gyllenhaal said the stakes of the 2014 elections could excite people.

“It’s hard for people who aren’t as addicted to this stuff as the folks in this room to be excited about midterms,” he said. “But it’s also true that the Senate is up for grabs, and if you focus on that, you are looking at something very suspenseful.”

2. The GOP will most likely take the Senate

Thompson, who is also an investigative reporter at The Post, asked the panel how President Barack Obama’s shrinking approval rate will impact the outcome in November. All four journalists agreed the president’s numbers would have an effect.

“They can’t bring in the star power of the president anymore,” Thomas said. “You want the money that a president can bring in, but in these tight races, he is nowhere to be found.”

Thomas, who graduated from GW in 2002, added that Obama’s absence from the campaign trail is intentional. And that shows Democrats are trying to distance themselves from the President, said Cahn, a 2011 alumna.

“These important races are happening in states that Obama had already lost [in 2012],” Cahn said. “Then you look at how poorly he’s doing now, that’s going to hurt his party with even the base voters in his party. That’s definitely a big problem for the Democrats.”

3. Take advantage of opportunities at GW

The alumni also mentioned how attending GW shaped their careers.

Students get “to be in the center of everything,” said Thomas, who joined “Meet the Press” this summer.

While at GW, Thomas interned at Fox News and stayed in D.C. to work as a lobbyist after graduation.

“Half, if not all, of your professors have connections,” she said. “Everything you can do in D.C. and still go to class is what GW can offer you.”

Wilson recalled interning on Capitol Hill while taking classes at the University.

“I love politics to my core. Because of that, there is no better place than here,” he said. “Forget about Georgetown, that’s way too far away.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the last name of SMPA associate professor Cheryl Thompson. It is Thompson, not Thomson. We regret this error.

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