How to Become a Professional Political Junkie

Reid Wilson

Follow Wilson @HotlineReid on Twitter, where he tweets about some of the funniest stories he comes across before the sun comes up.

By the time most people are waking up, Reid Wilson, CCAS BA ’05, has read dozens upon dozens of newspapers and blog posts from across the U.S. But as editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline, Washington’s daily tip sheet on campaigns and elections, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love politics. I love the game of it,” he says, “and I get to be a sportscaster for the only game that matters. We’re at this seminal moment in American politics where not one but both parties are reinventing themselves fundamentally.”

By 6 a.m. Wilson is poring over stories about Senate races, governor races, House races, and of course the upcoming presidential race. Consequently, he says he has a “horrible hidden skill” of knowing the entire senators category on Jeopardy. “The way people love baseball stats, I love political stats.”

His love of politics started at a young age. In the early 1990s, his parents took him to meet his state legislator, who drew pie charts and explained budgets to the second grader. Wilson followed his legislator’s career – watching Gary Locke, the current U.S. Ambassador to China, serve as governor of Washington and as President Obama’s first commerce secretary.

Wilson knew that he’d go into politics in some form or another and chose to attend GW because it was the “right location, with the right set of programs to sustain an intellectual interest and allow for professional development.”

“And I couldn’t have chosen a better place,” he adds.

His first job out of college was as an assistant to Chuck Todd, ATT ’90-94, who was running Hotline at the time. He then worked on a presidential campaign in 2008 – and realized that he was much happier writing about politics than practicing it.

Wilson opened RealClearPolitics.com’s Washington bureau, then worked for The Hill newspaper, where he covered congressional politics and campaigns. Before taking over Hotline’s top job, he edited the popular On Call blog.

As The Hotline’s 25th anniversary approaches, Wilson wants to put it on a path to its 50th, making the most comprehensive coverage of American politics available to the next generation of professional political junkies.

So what advice does Wilson have for aspiring politicos?

“This city runs on confidence. If you act confident enough, you can walk into any room in this town. Nobody will hand you anything, you have to take it,” he says, noting that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. “But overall, if you treat people well, keep a smile [on your] face and good attitude, and act like you belong, nobody’s going to say no.”

–Christine Cole

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On March 22, Wilson visited with students and recent grads at Alumni House for the spring’s first installment of the How Do I Become A… lecture series, a program designed to expose the university community to various careers by bringing distinguished alumni back to GW. The program is sponsored by the GW Alumni AssociationCareer Center, and Class Council. These events are FREE and open to students, alumni, and the GW community.

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