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Communications

O’Keefe Gives Students Inside Account of Covering Politics for the Post

By Sadie Thorman

Jane Hall and Ed O'Keefe seated on stage before audience.

Jane Hall moderated a discussion between current AU Politics and Media students and her former student, Ed O'Keefe (SPA/MA '05), now a reporter at the Washington Post.

Ed O'Keefe, a Congressional and political reporter for the Washington Post, a regular CBS News contributor and an American University (AU) alumnus spoke with AU students in the McKinley Building's Media Innovation Lab.

The event was a special edition of AU School of Communication's American Forum series, moderated by professor Jane Hall, which brings students together with prominent figures in politics and the media. The session was held in conjunction with Hall's inter-disciplinary course Politics and the Media. Her students have spent time reading and analyzing O'Keefe's work, including his coverage of the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections and the latest events in Congress, from healthcare to immigration. The Q & A-style event gave students the opportunity to ask O'Keefe directly about these topics and about his career path and reporting experiences.

Kelly Phares, a senior studying broadcast journalism, asked O'Keefe about the unique aspects of Congressional coverage. "On any given day, you could go in seven different directions," O'Keefe responded. "It's like covering a small city." He also discussed the fast-paced nature of covering recent political events, such as John McCain's historic and unexpected health-care vote and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation.

Ambar Pardilla, a journalism student, was interested in O'Keefe's observation that journalists can sometimes take their own background and experiences and bring that understanding to their reporting while still reporting objectively. This was illustrated when O'Keefe, whose mother was born in Guatemala, discussed traveling to Guatemala to report several stories from there. Pardilla said, "Since I'm a Latina who's interested in writing about immigration, that was really important for me to hear."

O'Keefe, who is a 2005 graduate of the AU School of Public Affairs (SPA), was a student in Hall's class as an undergraduate at AU. Hall said that SOC is proud to claim him as an alum because of his generosity in spending time with students. "I believe that Ed has spoken to my Politics and the Media class every year since he graduated from AU in 2005. He is one of the most respected and thoughtful journalists covering Congress, and he's a great role-model for our students. I'm excited that we were able to film the interview and have so many students ask questions of him directly."

"It was a great opportunity to meet the next generation of journalists and I appreciated they asked smart, succinct questions," said O'Keefe.

O'Keefe was one of the Post's first video and blogging reporters on the campaign trail in 2008. He wrote the Post's Federal Eye Blog, tracking federal agencies, and spent time in Iraq covering the war. In 2016, O'Keefe covered Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, and the Republican primary field. He was a co-host of more than eight hours of live election-night newscasts from the Post.

Watch highlights from the event.

Learn more about Journalism programs at American University School of Communication.