In the Field
Jack Gillum ’06 has a clear-eyed view of journalism in today’s political climate.
“It can be demoralizing to see journalists called names, arrested, or thrown to the ground for doing their jobs,” he said. “But this is an exciting time to be a reporter, for no other reason than I feel the public is paying much closer attention to current events and is expecting journalists to find the answers.”
Gillum recently joined the staff at The Washington Post, following stints at The Arizona Daily Star, USA Today, and the Associated Press. He’ll be part a new Post investigative team that focuses on in-depth stories that are produced relatively quickly — in a few weeks rather than months or years.
"Readers these days are inundated with news, whether it's about the Trump administration or major events in their back yards. It's up to us, then, to take time to dig a little deeper,” said Gillum, who points out that he was rejected for a Post internship twice when he was a student at Santa Clara University.
A political science major, Gillum took several of Senior Lecturer Barbara Kelley’s journalism courses in the Communication Department. He remembers losing an entire letter grade when he misspelled a name in a story. The lesson? Accuracy matters and never do that again.
“The classes taught me the importance of getting the basics right in journalism — especially names, dates, and other bits of key information,” he said. “The more complicated stories get, the more important it is to get those pieces right. Otherwise, your credibility evaporates as quickly as your editor’s patience on your ability to get the correct story.”
The university’s student newspaper was also a learning opportunity for Gillum and dozens of other students who now work as journalists. He served as editor-in-chief for three consecutive years, working with Senior Lecturer Gordon Young, the paper’s faculty adviser.
“It was one of the best training grounds for being a professional journalist,” Gillum remembered. “It was a real-world application of what I had learned in Comm classes, with often serious consequences for what we published. That even included arrests and deaths involving the campus community, which required an accelerated maturity to both report the story and brace for any fallout.”
Learning the basics at smaller publications before moving up worked well for Gillum, who proves that “being really curious can become a profession.”
“There is a lot of noise in the media space right now, but good reporting is timeless, and sometimes it can make a difference,” he said.