Annenberg expert-in-residence talks political journalism and career

Jon Ward shared his unique rise through the industry with Annenberg students during a special event Tuesday.

Political reporter speaks to a group of student journalists around a table.

The Republican victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race may have important implications for future elections, Jon Ward, a senior political correspondent for Yahoo! News, told USC students Tuesday.

In an 80-minute open conversation at the Annenberg School of Journalism, Ward said that the Republican Party’s strong showing will almost certainly allow them to take back the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections. The Democratic Party currently holds a narrow advantage by eight seats.

What’s less clear is how the presidential race in 2024 will play out, he added.

“Is it the first step on a path for Republicans towards a non-Trump future? Or does it just encourage Trump and Trumpism to come back stronger than ever?” said Ward, USC Annenberg’s R. Rebecca Donatelli Expert-in-Residence in Political Analysis and Media.

Ward noted how Glenn Youngkin, the Republican who defeated Democrat and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, distanced himself from former President Donald Trump during his campaign.

Youngkin received a higher turnout rate than Trump, especially in Republican-dominated areas, a promising development for the party, according to Ward.

“He’s not a Trumpian figure in a lot of ways,” Ward said about Youngkin. “So, it’s a recipe for Republicans to potentially follow.”

Ward also detailed his two-decade experience as a reporter in Washington, D.C., covering politics for the Huffington Post, The Daily Caller and The Washington Times.

Ward’s 2019 book, “Camelot’s End,” told the story of the hard-fought 1980 Democratic presidential primary between Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and then-President Jimmy Carter.

“It’s what I wanted to do more than anything,” Ward said about writing his first book. “Long-form storytelling is really where it’s at for me.”

Ward acknowledged how his own experience as an up-and-coming reporter may differ from his audience of journalism students. Ward didn’t study journalism in college, and he had to call the editor of The Washington Times five days in a row in order to get his first opportunity in the industry.

“Having the ability to live at home was obviously very helpful,” Ward said about his six-month unpaid internship at The Washington Times. “Maybe that offers some insight to some of you.”

Ward also emphasized the necessity of passion for young journalists in pitching stories. He encouraged his audience just to go out and work on stories that they are particularly passionate about, regardless of whether or not that story has a place to be published.