This article is the second in a series called #ElectYourCareer, which spotlights inspiring Millennials who have successful careers in politics. To start things off, we’ve partnered with MSNBC to profile political journalists. What’s it like having to cover Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump day in and out during their campaigns? Or how does it feel interviewing them live on air? Here, Levo will provide you with the information you need to understand what it takes to cover a presidential election. (BTW: Tune into MSNBC all day on March 1st for Super Tuesday coverage!)
Kasie Hunt is an excellent role model for young professionals looking to get ahead in their careers. She works diligently and efficiently, without wasting any time. After Hunt graduated from George Washington University in 2006, she became a health policy reporter for the National Journal and by 2010 was already covering her first round of midterm elections for Politico. The AP recruited Hunt two years later to cover Mitt Romney’s political campaign. Now, she’s working for MSNBC and following Bernie Sanders around three to four cities each day. If you tune into MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ or ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’, you’ll find her regularly providing thoughtful insights. In the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, Hunt told Levo how she landed her dream internship over a Harvard student. She also discussed why networking is key and what it’s like to travel with others who support Bernie Sanders.
Levo: When were you first introduced to the world of politics?
Kasie Hunt: I’ve always been interested in politics. When I was younger, I used to read TIME magazine and remember learning about primary candidates in 1996 when I was still in grade school. And then once college started and I moved to D.C., it became pretty inescapable; especially if you catch the “bug” early on, it’s hard to get rid of that interest thereafter.
Levo: While you were at NBC News, who did you look up to as a political intern?
Kasie Hunt: The man who is now my daily supervisor, Mark Murray, was coincidentally also my supervisor when I interned at NBC News. He later assisted me in securing an internship at the National Journal – for which I’m extremely grateful. Being a reporter requires fundamental skills that I learned from Paul Singer, the politics editor at USA Today, while I was working at the National Journal. Without him, I would have been completely lost. He changed my life for the better and has stuck by me through everything.
Levo: Which lesson that he taught you stands out most in your memory?
Kasie Hunt: I quickly learned during my internship with the National Journal that although you may not feel like you’re cut out for a task, if you stick with it and show determination, success will come your way. The magazine expressed interest in my internship application but told me that another candidate who went to Harvard would likely be a better fit for the role. We’re going to offer the internship to him, but if he says no we’ll come back to you. So for weeks, I called the editor of the National Journal every Friday and said something like this: Hey, I don’t know where things stand with this job opportunity, but I would love to have it. I would like to spend the summer this way. Please let me know what you think. And every time he said, We’re still waiting for this guy. After a month or so of hearing this, I called one Friday and received the same response. I said, OK, thank you, and then hung up the phone. After waiting a couple of minutes, my phone rang. The person on the other line said they hadn’t heard back from the candidate they thought was best suited for the job, but since I wanted it and seemed highly dedicated, they were offering me the position.
[Watch: Natalie Morales, News Anchor, “Today”]
Levo: That’s an incredible story. You went on to cover Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign for the AP and now you’re covering Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign for MSNBC. How is it that reporters are assigned to a specific candidate?
Kasie Hunt: I think success is a combination of hard work and luck. I started out covering Congress for the National Journal. When I was first assigned to cover health care and labor policy, I expected it to be quite dull. However, things changed when President Obama was elected and began pushing for the healthcare law passage – which turned into a massive story. When I first started as a reporter, being young was an advantage because reporters who cover politicians have to spend years on the road with them–which is much easier when you’re younger. In 2010, I covered the midterm elections for Politico, so they hired me in 2012 to cover Romney. Out of all the reporters, I was one of the few that were younger.
Levo: I am fully aware that each day fluctuates while working on a campaign, but can you give us an overview of what your workdays entail at the moment?
Kasie Hunt: We’re in the heart of campaign season, and what we’re doing with Bernie Sanders is quite normal. The morning of the event, you leave your belongings to be screened by the Secret Service and board the press bus. You’ll arrive at the location just in time for the candidate’s speech. You quickly gather everything, get on the riser, and set up your shot. You attempt to talk to people and find out what’s happening, and as soon as it ends, you take everything down, pack it all up again, put it back in the truck, and fly to the next city. You do this 3-4 times a day.
Levo: Have you had the chance to interview Bernie Sanders yet?
Kasie Hunt: I’ve interviewed him several times, including when I first started covering him at an event in New Hampshire and more recently after he won the New Hampshire primary, flying to meet with me in New York. His discussion of President Obama led to a talk about the leadership gap, and our conversation ended up influencing the Democratic debate.
Levo: What would you suggest to someone wanting to become a political journalist?
Kasie Hunt: Social media has a way of sticking around, so be mindful of what you post and how you conduct yourself online. Also, remember to pay attention to the relationships that you have and are developing—they can be beneficial regardless of where your career is headed. I’m working with NBC’s senior political editor, Mark Murray, daily. When I was only 19 years old, he supervised my internship. Back then, I had no clue that the relationships established would matter in the long run; however, politics is an unpredictable small world where every relationship holds value–from those you meet who hold tremendous power to minimal power.
Levo: Describe this election year so far in three words.
KH: ” Off the wall. “