As the 2012 presidential campaign heats up and the Republican primaries are on the way, the capital is saturated with information that requires sharp analysis and detailed interpretation. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog claims to be that “truth squad” helping vet the validity of the rhetoric coming out of the mouths, and press releases, of political figures, pundits, interest groups and the media.
Josh Hicks, a recent addition to the Washington Post’s political team, joined Fact Checker as a researcher and reporter working closely with award-winning journalist Glenn Kessler, and hopes to further bolster the already exceptional coverage of the political blog.
Hicks covers politics and government on a regular basis, interacting with readers and reporters, decoding political statements, and providing daily in-depth analysis on the political climate. He also invites comments and contributions from the community to strengthen the cause of their self-proclaimed “truth squad.”
Fact Checker gives the audience a better grasp on what is really being said by different groups and candidates in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential campaign, Hicks said. His hope for the blog is to open discussion on these topics and clear up confusion in terms of the way the readers view politics and speculate on the reality of the political arena.
“I definitely like writing for a larger audience,” he said. “I mean, who wouldn’t?”
Hicks acknowledged that the job also requires a high level of flexibility and competency—there is a constant pressure to live up to the storied reputation of a paper as high-caliber as The Washington Post, especially when it comes to political coverage.
“It forces you to step up your game just that much more [when] you know that many more people are reading,” he said. “… You’re representing an institution that’s held in high regard. You don’t want to be the guy who messes that up.”
Hicks also enjoys the pressure of working at the same level of his colleagues, he said, but acquired a strong foundation in journalism prior to joining the Post. Hicks interned at The Philadelphia Inquirer in addition to working as reporter at the Bellevue Reporter and the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter in Washington State.
“There are good stories no matter where you go. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a small farming town or the Big Apple,” he added.
Working as a staff reporter for both the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter and Bellevue Reporter helped Hicks bone up his skills while gaining a solid footing on his writing career.
“I never looked back,” he explained. “If you like to write, this is the way to make a living. [Government/Watchdog] has become [one] of my favorite types of reporting. When you start, people don’t always trust you to cover those sorts of pieces. As soon as I could, I was doing government stuff.”
But setting foot in Washington Post’s doors was not easy. “I can’t tell you how many applications I put in before I went to grad school, how many times I just sent unsolicited letters to big metro daily newspapers to get them to just talk to me, and it never happened.”
It took a recommendation from a professor in graduate school to give Hicks a chance with the Washington, D.C., media-giant and when that opportunity came to him, it was an unexpected surprise.
The chance to work at a paper as prestigious as the Washington Post was one he could not turn down. He feels like a better person, he said, strictly by virtue of being around the staff of a paper of such stature, and as his writing continues to grow, his techniques will continue to be honed.
“I never want to just clap my hands and say I’m done learning,” he said. “I can always look at my work and say I can do better, and [I] am always looking to continue to challenge myself in order to get there.”
Hicks advises PR professionals to send materials hyper-specific to the content of the blog.
“If it doesn’t have to do with fact-checking a candidate, there is just no point in contacting us. We very specifically cover politics and we fact-check political statements,” he said. “We try to respond to comments [on the blog]. If people make a valid point, then we want to respond to that.”
Contact him via email.