Jon Ward – Senior Political Reporter, The Huffington Post
After a month at News Corps’ iPad newspaper, The Daily, Jon Ward has moved to The Huffington Post as senior political reporter. A sharp contrast from his previous experiences working at conservative publications, Ward shifted gears toward a more left-leaning HuffPo and wants to cover the 2012 presidential campaign with in-depth reporting that goes beyond the D.C. audience.
“It’s an exciting opportunity, and I’m thrilled to have it,” Ward wrote in an open letter to the D.C. media. “My departure should not be seen as any kind of negative reflection on them [The Daily]. I simply was presented, out of the blue, with a difficult choice between two really great options.”
Ward joined The Daily as Washington correspondent in February after leaving his senior political and White House reporter post at Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller, a position he started when the site launched in late 2009.
“I worked ridiculous hours filing throughout the day and then just about every day for the first six months; I’d work late into the night on a morning piece. The entire 14 months I spent at the DC were a great experience,” Ward said. “I wrote a ton and enjoyed Tucker’s truly libertarian approach to management, as well as his encouragement and the fun environment he created. I learned to write with more authority and hopefully more simplicity.”
In a highly publicized financial deal, AOL Inc. recently acquired The Huffington Post and has integrated AOL properties with the online paper to create the Huffington Post Media Group. Editor in chief and co-founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, is the president and editor in chief of the new group.
With all the changes happening at his new employer, Ward keeps his focus with coverage of the upcoming campaign and says his goals do not stretch past election night on November 6, 2012.
“In between now and then, the goal is to cover the campaign, along with my colleagues, in such a way that HuffPo becomes a must read site for those wanting to understand the candidates, the issues, and the contest,” he said. “Arianna wants substance narrative context, not just minute by minute updates on the latest ad or personnel hire.”
He added, “So while the capacity is there for a quick hit articles, if I have something small and really interesting that I might be first on, the premium will be on doing lots of reporting, talking to as many sources as possible, and giving readers information and analysis that hopefully helps them understand what is going on in a way that they still remember it the next day, and even a month later.”
Ward also stays informed and engaged with his readers through Twitter. “Twitter is a huge gift because it’s a user-formatted news source as well as a megaphone that is largely meritocratic,” he said. “It seems to me like Twitter is going to become even more integral to journalism, especially as it allows more customization.”
Most importantly, he wants his audience to go beyond the nation’s capitol. “I want to try to write stories not just for the D.C. audience, which can be easy to fall into,” he said. “I want to write stories that matter to people who don’t eat, sleep and breathe politics or news.”
As a literature major in college, Ward taught high school English for two years after graduating. He then decided to get into newspapers. His first freelance contract came from senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, Tim Kurkjian, who Ward says, “I still have yet to meet in person since then, so I can thank.” He then worked six months at an unpaid internship in 2001 at The Washington Times, while he waited tables on the side for income.
In 2002, he began reporting on the city desk at The Times until 2006. Ward was pushed along the way by a mentor he still considers a close friend. “The man who without a question pushed me to become a true reporter, who rode me mercilessly at times to do better work, but also encouraged me and inspired me was David Eldridge, the deputy Metro editor and a former Texas newspaper editor,” Ward said. Eldridge is still at The Times as the website managing editor.
“Other journalists who I respect and try to emulate are many, but among them are Stephen Dinan at The Times, Christina Bellantoni at Roll Call, Mike Allen of Politico, Peter Baker of The New York Times and Guy Taylor, a freelancer and former Times staffer,” Ward said.
In 2007, he transitioned to a White House correspondent for The Times and reported on the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, along with President Obama’s first year in office.
“I have traveled to 17 countries with the two presidents. It was great experience,” Ward said.
Ward prefers to receive press materials via e-mail and stresses that press materials should be clear and concise.
“If you can tell me what the story means for the reader in one sentence, that’s what I need to know,” he said. “But make sure you can back up your lede with substance.”
His biggest pet peeve is getting press releases from places that don’t offer any value.
Ward can be found on Twitter at @jonward11
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