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The Mission-Driven Podcast features conversations with alumni who are leveraging their Holy Cross education to make a meaningful difference in the world around them.  Produced by the Office of Alumni Relations at the College of the Holy Cross.  Learn more at holycross.edu/alumni.

Mar 2, 2020

Paige Cohen '21 speaks with Bridget Bowman '13 about her career as a political reporter, and how the Holy Cross mission has influenced her approach to connecting with voters and reporting the news.

Recorded September 23, 2019

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Transcript

sHour, then how did you get from NewsHour to Role Call?

Bridget:

So the politics editor of the NewsHour at the time, her name is Christina Belintoni, she had been the political editor at Role Call and then while she was at the NewsHour, was then hired to go back to Role Call as the Editor in Chief and she encouraged me to apply to a paid internship that they had and I was kind of nervous about it. I didn't have a ton of newspaper experience outside of writing for the Holy Cross paper, but I knew that it would be a great opportunity to learn from seasoned journalists like Christina, to get my own experience reporting and writing. So I applied to that internship and I've basically been there ever since.

Bridget:

I interned for several months and then was hired as a full time reporter. I've kind of done different beats in Role Call throughout the last almost six years, five and a half years at this point. So it's been a really great experience, but that's kind of how I ended up there.

Paige:

So since you didn't have the print experience that maybe some other applicants had had, was there anything that you said in your interview that you think like really made you stand out or ...

Bridget:

That's a good question. I'm trying to remember, but that was a little while ago. I'm trying to remember my interview. I remember talking about specific races that I thought were interesting, like congressional races that were going on. So I think the political knowledge, and I also did get some writing experience at the NewsHour writing for their morning newsletter that they had, doing some stories for the website. So I did have that experience. I can't remember exactly what that interview was like. I remember who it was with, but I do sort of remember talking about the individual races so maybe that might've been helped.

Paige:

Yeah. General like political knowledge. I felt like, so I spent last summer in DC interning at the State Department and it was, I just felt like in DC there's this culture of everybody knows every political thing up to the minute. So just trying to keep up with that, but I feel like that's the way to stand out there.

Bridget:

Yeah. People in DC are very focused on, it's kind of a funny world.

Paige:

Yeah.

Bridget:

But it's interesting, for sure.

Paige:

I know. I'm trying to like get back on my podcast here at Holy Cross and I'm like, you know, keep up, keep up. So have there been any stories that you've worked on at Role Call or anything, any big highlights that were your favorite to write or research?

Bridget:

Sure. I think anytime that I've traveled, so I've been on the campaign team for the last two and a half years, jumped into the politics team covering the midterm elections last cycle, which was kind of wild. There was a lot. It was so closely watched and so much going on. But anytime I've had a chance to travel has been really interesting and just getting of DC and talking to voters has been fun. I covered the Alabama Senate special election where a Democrat Doug Jones won and upset the Republican candidate, Roy Moore, who had, you know, sexual misconduct issues and there was a lot of stuff going on in that campaign. And I remember being in Alabama and the days leading up to the race and writing stories about who are the Republican voters that were supporting Doug Jones because that was why that race was competitive.

Bridget:

And also writing about how both candidates were using religious networks to kind of reach out to communities. Jones, focusing on African American churches. Moore, focusing on rural churches throughout the state. So I think that race was really kind of fun. It was kind of my first big election that I covered and just we ended up going to Doug Jones election night party. We had no idea of which candidate was going to win. It was so close. People I was talking to in both parties, nobody knew what was going to happen. We kind of made the choice to go to Jones because we figured if he were to win that would be the place to be. And just kind of being there when the race was called and scrambling to write follow up stories was just a really interesting experience.

Bridget:

And yeah, like I said, being able to travel and see parts of the country has certainly been really interesting.

Paige:

Do you think, you know, Holy Cross has such a focus on the community and you said you were involved in Spud, so I'm curious, did any of that start to come back to you? Like that kind of community learning component? I don't know. It might be fishing.

Bridget:

Yeah. I think so. I mean, you're always trying to tap into different communities and figure out what voters are thinking and what's motivating people, what's driving them to the ballot box, what messages are working. So that has a lot to do with going into different communities and talking to regular people. I've literally stood outside of Walmart's and asked people as they go to shop, what are you thinking about? Who are you going to support? And things like that. So I don't know that answers your question.

Paige:

Yeah. No, it does. It just, yeah. So, and then what is the most difficult story that you might've had to cover? Was there anything, I don't know, difficult and it could be in different ways.

Bridget:

Right.

Paige:

Hard to write or maybe troubling to write.

Bridget:

Sure. That's a really, there's been so many things going on. I think one story that took me a really long time to write actually was an earlier story I wrote at Role Call on the, so my first beat was covering the Capitol campus, which is like the kind of the local news of Capitol Hill issues impacting staffers, legislative branch agencies, which includes the Library of Congress. And I had heard from some folks about, concern about diversity and discrimination issues for Library of Congress staffers, that staffers of color were seeing some barriers in being able to advance up.

Bridget:

So that took a long time to kind of report out and kind of at the same time, the first African American Librarian of Congress was nominated and being confirmed. So there was, you know, history being made at the highest level of the library, but those are the lowest level were still seeing a lot of barriers to advancement.

Bridget:

So people, especially regular workers, don't always want to talk to a reporter or go on the record, but it involves a lot of talking to people, digging through court documents, seeing discrimination cases that have been filed, talking to the unions and talking to them, going back and forth with the library about their diversity plans and things like that. So that was a huge, a big lift.

Bridget:

But it also led to another story about diversity among senior Senate staff when I was on the Senate beat. After that story came out, then Senate staffers are reaching out saying we're having some similar issues in the Senate.

Bridget:

So that's always kind of a really sensitive issue to talk to with people. But it was a really good experience in how you bring together interviews and legal documents and all of that. So that was definitely, that was a lot of work.

Paige:

Well, and it strikes me like that's the kind of what you're talking about, the essence of your mission, like the finding the truth. I mean, literally digging through and getting all these interviews together and bringing all these different, you know, people from different walks of life all together. So.

Paige:

All right. This is kind of a big question. What does it mean to you to live a meaningful life and how is your work a part of this meaning and maybe how is it not?

Bridget:

That is a big, very big question.

Paige:

Yeah.

Bridget:

Critical thinking at Holy Cross. I think when I think of what it means to have a meaningful life, I think of what kind of impact have you had on people. I think professionally, when I think of what kind of impact I'd like to have, I'd like to kind of be able to look back and say I told stories of people who hadn't been heard before or I shed light on a problem that hadn't been noticed before. I think that that's kind of what I like to think about in terms of my career.

Bridget:

Kind of personally, a meaningful life can be how you are impacting the people around you. And I tend to think of that Maya Angelou quote where she said people don't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel. And so, am I making the people around me feel loved and respected?

Paige:

I love that. You answered it, I think. All right. So we want to do a little Holy Cross speed round to go off of the big question, into Holy Cross questions. All right, so speed round. What was your favorite dorm at Holy Cross?

Bridget:

So I lived in Figge my senior year, which was beautiful and awesome. But I probably have to say Hanselman for the sentimental value because that was my freshman dorm and a lot of my friends are friends that I've met in Hanselman. Spent a lot of time doing homework in the Hanselman basement. So I think that even though Figge was newer and nice and beautiful, I think I have to say Hanselman.

Paige:

Do they call it Hanselfam when you were here? Because now it is the Hansel family.

Bridget:

Hanselfam?

Paige:

Hanselfam.

Bridget:

I love that.

Paige:

So it has continued. Yes.

Bridget:

That's great. That's so great.

Paige:

Okay. Favorite Cool Beans order.

Bridget:

I love their chai. My friend called it Christmas in a cup, which is so accurate. So good. I also love the pumpkin bread at Cool Beans. So good.

Paige:

So good.

Bridget:

So good.

Paige:

All right. And then Kimball meal?

Bridget:

Kimball meal. Oh, I'm trying to remember. Wasn't there like an Apple Fest thing?

Paige:

There is, in the fall. Yes.

Bridget:

Where they have a ton of apples. I remembered that was always really exciting.

Paige:

Yes. The caramel apples.

Bridget:

Yes.

Paige:

Very good.

Bridget:

I also remember having a lot of the stir fry station.

Paige:

Yes.

Bridget:

But that was ...

Paige:

Love the stir fry station.

Bridget:

That was a good one too.

Paige:

Favorite class?

Bridget:

That's so hard. I thought meaningful life was going to be the hardest question. I mean, I loved taking classes outside of my major too. I took American Sign Language, which was really interesting. I did love a lot of my poli sci classes though.

Bridget:

One actually I still kind of think about is my senior year I took a seminar called politics and technology and we kind of went through historically how technology had impacted politics. And even then we're talking about campaigns micro targeting people like very specific digital ads aimed at people. And today, I deal with that all the time and I find myself kind of thinking back to that seminar where we could, I kind of wish I could just sit around and talk to people about it for awhile like we did then and that was really interesting.

Paige:

Favorite professor?

Bridget:

That's also really hard. I can't just choose one. My freshman year I had Professor Stephanie Yule from the history department. She was fantastic. She actually I think might've been the only professor that I had that made us learn every person's name in the class. Like she would call us to the front of the class and we'd have to identify everyone.

Paige:

That's some pressure.

Bridget:

Which was scary but also awesome because the next four years, I knew, we all knew each other so well. So she was fantastic. All the political science department professors were fantastic. Daniel Klinghard, Ward Thomas, Donald Brand, Lauren Cass, just a really great team. I can't. I don't think I can pick just one.

Paige:

Yeah. Yeah.

Bridget:

But that's an amazing part of Holy Cross. The access that you get to your professors, to go into office hours and the small classes is definitely something I really enjoyed about this place.

Paige:

Well, and it's good to hear all of those names because they're still here for the most part.

Bridget:

Right. That's true.

Paige:

So I was just walking down the political science department hallway, seeing their names, so I hopefully be in their classes.

Bridget:

Nice. Would recommend.

Paige:

And then favorite Holy Cross memory?

Bridget:

That's a really good question. I mean, there were so many big events, graduation, the night before graduation is always a really fond memory. I feel like my favorite memory is not a specific thing, but just thinking about my friends just hanging out in our dorm room, a couple of my friends played guitar and stuff and that just all being together and just relaxing in a dorm is something I really miss.

Bridget:

I think when you're here at Holy Cross and kind of in the moment, you don't realize how fortunate you are to just be surrounded by your friends and to be learning all the time. And we're all, a lot of us are spread out, so I definitely miss that a lot.

Paige:

Yeah. Your friends like downstairs or just a meal at Kimball.

Bridget:

Right. We used to think like going from Figge to Carlin is so far.

Paige:

Such a long walk.

Bridget:

Right.

Paige:

And now in DC and they're Connecticut or Boston, it's a little farther.

Bridget:

Oh my gosh. All right, and then last question. What is the best part about being a Holy Cross alum?

Bridget:

Oh my goodness. I think just the community that alums have. Our alumni network is so active. When I was, as I mentioned, I think when I was applying to jobs, I was using the Career Advisor Network, talking to alums, asking for as much advice as I could. And in DC, cities have different chapters of alums. In DC, we get together about once a month and when I tell other people that my college does that, they're kind of surprised. Like what? Like you still, you ... there's that connection?

Paige:

Yeah.

Bridget:

But that's been a really great part of it. And whenever you meet another Holy cross alum, you have that instant connection, whatever it is about this place that kind of bonds people together is definitely a really great part about being an alum. Even though I miss being a student here, that's like something you can probably look forward to.

Paige:

That's good to know. I'm glad it doesn't end here.

Bridget:

Right. Exactly. Last pumpkin bread unfortunately, but ...

Paige:

You have to make that yourself.

Bridget:

Exactly. Not as good. It's not as good.

Paige:

Well, Bridget, thank you so much for talking to me today and I hope to talk to you more in the future.

Bridget:

Sure. Thanks Paige. This has been really fun.

Paige:

Thank you.

Maura:

That's our show. I hope you enjoyed hearing about just one of the many ways that Holy Cross alumni have been inspired by the mission to be men and women for and with others. A special thanks to today's guests and everyone at Holy Cross who has contributed to making this podcast a reality.

If you or someone you know would like to be featured on this podcast, please send us an email at alumnicareers@holycross.edu. If you like what you hear, then please leave us a review. This podcast is brought to you by the Office of Alumni Relations at the College of the Holy Cross. You can subscribe for future episodes wherever you find your podcasts.

I'm your host, Maura Sweeney, and this is Mission-Driven. In the words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, now go forth and set the world on fire.

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