A Career in Investigative Journalism
How has your experience at Hamilton tied into your current career?
Quite a bit! Hamilton’s open curriculum allowed me to explore a wide range of topics, from modern Chinese art to labor economics. It helped foster an intellectual curiosity that is key to the work that I do. And the college’s broader liberal arts curriculum taught me to think critically.
The emphasis on oral and written communication also helped enormously. I believe it positioned me for a career in writing.
Hamilton may not have a journalism program, but it was on College Hill where I found a passion for the craft. I wrote for every section of The Spectator, interned at the Utica Observer-Dispatch, and was a college stringer for the Syracuse Post-Standard. By the start of my senior year, I knew I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.
Describe your experience after Hamilton and your process in getting jobs/internships.
After Hamilton, I got a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University. I could have skipped grad school and started at a small newspaper, but I had hoped Columbia would launch me to a bigger outlet. It did; after graduation, I landed a summer internship at the Miami Herald.
The newsroom was electric. At the end of the summer, I practically begged the Herald to keep me on full time. Thankfully, a spot opened up on the Continuous News Desk. It wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs; I reported in before sunrise, usually to write short stories about traffic and weather for the web. But every now and then, I had a chance to cover big breaking news. It was great training; I learned how to write quickly and file from the field. I eventually became one of the paper’s education reporters, and a member of the government team.
Hamilton has a long history of connecting students with alumni and parents whose advice, expertise, and resources help talented young people achieve success for themselves and in their communities.
Describe the environment/general lifestyle of your career.
I love the fast-paced, exciting nature of newspaper journalism. You never quite know what your day will look like. One day, you could be covering the president. The next, you could be reporting from a zero-gravity flight (I’ve done both). If you are enterprising, you’ll find ample opportunities to travel. My work has taken me from rural North Dakota to earthquake-ravaged Haiti and plenty of places in between.
I won’t sugar coat it. The work is challenging, particularly when you are facing a tight deadline or trying to get to the bottom of something someone is trying to hide. All of the reporters I know work long hours. They lose sleep over the possibility of a misspelled name. But it’s incredibly rewarding. You have the opportunity to hold elected officials accountable, to tell people’s stories, and to make a difference in your community. And in this era of fake news, I’d argue, the work is more important than ever.
Kathleen McGrory '05 is a reporter on the investigations team at the Tampa Bay Times. She was previously the newspaper’s health and medicine reporter. Before joining the Times in 2015, Kathleen spent seven years as a metro reporter for the Miami Herald and two years as a government reporter in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. At Hamilton, she majored in economics and Spanish.