Long-time USA TODAY reporter offers encouraging words for journalism students

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Judy Keen talks with UNL Associate Professor of Journalism, Joe Weber at Wednesday’s presenation

Story and photos by Justin Van Nostrand, NewsNetNebraska

Chicago correspondent of USA TODAY, Judy Keen came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus on Wednesday to talk to students about occupying the voting booth. What had been planned to be a large, lecture-style presentation turned into a small, intimate question and answer session between attendees and Keen.

Keen has worked with USA TODAY since 1987 and was the Washington correspondent through the terms of three presidents. She covered five presidential elections during this time and has interviewed both Barack and Michelle Obama and she currently holds the records for the most interviews with George W. Bush.

During her presentation Wednesday night Keen rounded up the 15 attendees into a circle in the back of the Nebraska Union Ballroom. Journalism students, faculty and those involved in student government hit Keen with a diverse series of questions.

One student asked Keen how she coped with working such a non-stop, demanding and stressful job. Keen didn’t deny the stress of the job, but shared a few strategies that help her. “Boy, it is stressful,” Keen said. “My coping mechanism is to check every fact to the point of absurdity.”

Because of Keen’s attention to detail, she hasn’t had a correction in the paper in three years.


Journalism students Chelsea Stromer (left) and Haley Whisennand (right) listen to Keen’s presentation.”

In regards to the stress of the job and the competitiveness associated with covering high-level political news, Keen just does the best job she can do. “You write it as fairly as you can, you report it as thoroughly as you can, you don’t stretch or assume,” Keen said.

For Keen, knowing her story is correct and unbiased helps to relieve the stress of the demanding news business. “You can ruin your career with one story,” Keen said.

Keen ended the presentation with some encouraging words to future journalists saying that it’s worth all the stress. “I traveled around the world, literally. I’ve seen amazing things. I got to know presidents a little bit as human beings,” Keen said. “It’s the pinnacle. It’s a great career. I have had a blast, so go for it.”