Campus News

Journalist describes reporting on election, storytelling

Political staff writer from The Atlantic Molly Ball participated in a question and answer session with journalism students and spoke about her career, her reporting and thoughts on the recent presidential election.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Molly Ball spoke to UW-Madison journalism students about her path as a journalist, political journalism and her coverage of the presidential election, particularly the recent presidential election, as the Center for Journalism Ethics’ Writer-In-Residence for December.

Ball, a political staff writer at the The Atlantic, began practicing journalism at a young age and has had numerous reporting jobs. She said she was never especially interested in politics and fell into being a political writer in order to accept a job she was offered.

“I just wanted to tell great stories that mattered to people,” Ball said. “I think political reporting is an incredible way to do that. there's a hunger for stories that are not just about elite players in the political process … but how politics resonate with people's lives.”

The writer said she focused on documenting voters’ voices during the presidential election. She discussed the experience of reporting during a presidential campaign where the public grew to mistrust the media and claims of false equivalency were often cast upon publications. She said she focused on both parties, and wrote mainly about the voices of American people.

“For me, one of the big themes of this election was so many people in America did not feel like their voice is being heard,” Ball said. “Most of the time when I approach people I find a lot of [them] are really happy that someone cares about their opinion. I take that seriously because I think that is our job, to provide a voice to people … to me the people that drive politics are the voters.”

Ball discussed the difficulty of succeeding in a career in journalism. She said graduates that will be launching their careers now have the advantage of gaining recognition through online resources, but attempting to climb up the ladder at print newspapers may no longer be a way to get jobs. She said future journalists must be creative and entrepreneurial to get themselves and their stories out there.

“It's a hard business to make it in,” Ball said. “I've chosen something that, for me, is fulfilling and that I care about. It's possible, but you have to love it and really be passionate about it.”

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