On Tuesday, Yahoo News senior political correspondent and USC Annenberg expert-in-residence Jon Ward spoke with USC students about his upbringing, career path and two decades of experience in political journalism and long-form storytelling.
After the event, Ward sat down with Annenberg Media and opened up about his background, how he got into journalism, and what he believes are the industry’s challenges going forward.
USC Annenberg hosted an 80-minute open conversation with Ward.
Ward was mostly uninterested in politics growing up and wasn’t very political in college either. He also did not study journalism in college.
Ward was raised in an Evangelical Christian household, which he believes had a significant impact on his worldview and outlook on politics from a young age.
JON WARD: And one of the big themes of conservative Evangelical Christianity during the time I was growing up was the way we thought of ourselves. We thought of ourselves as not political really at all, and we thought of politics as something that was a little bit dirty. We didn’t want to really be too involved in it.
Ward knew he wanted to become a writer, which led him to journalism after teaching literature for two years after college. Political journalism had the most opportunity for him.
But the landscape of journalism… and political journalism in particular… has shifted rapidly in recent years, presenting challenges for a future generation of journalists.
WARD: There’s no doubt that the biggest change in journalism over the last 20 years that I’ve been in the business has been the loss of trust that millions of people in this country have in the media. And so I think that’s the big challenge for any journalist and for the media at large is to think creatively about ways to earn back that trust.
That loss of trust is linked to a perceived lack of objectivity, not just in journalism, but in all spaces.
WARD: No one is fully objective. I think when people talk about objectivity, what they mean is, are you trying to tell the story truthfully? Are you trying to further an agenda or are you kind of following the facts where they lead? I think that’s really what we mean when we talk about objectivity.
Ward says everyone’s worldview is impacted by their background. Being able to unpack and apply his own outlook to his interactions is a lengthy process. However, he encourages young journalists and people in general to be aware of and learn from each other’s differences.
WARD: The challenge for us as American citizens is to reach across difference and disagreement and reconcile with people who might see us as different, who might be threatened by us and who might disagree with us. We need to really work on unifying this country however we can.
Ward’s perspective as a political journalist could be a way to bring people together in years to come, but the 2022 midterm election and 2024 presidential election will continue to test America’s unity.