Beth Fouhy covers Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and state and national politics for The Associated Press, based in New York City. From 2003 to 2005, she was a political writer for the AP in San Francisco, where she covered the historic recall of Gov. Gray Davis and the election and administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Before moving to California in 2001, Beth spent 13 years at CNN in Washington, D.C., covering politics and Capitol Hill. She served as executive producer of the network's political unit during the 2000 presidential campaign. Beth is an honors graduate of Oberlin College and was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University from 2001-2002. She lives in Pelham, New York with her husband and son.
JournalismJobs.com: There are different facets to covering Hillary Clinton: Hillary the local politician, Hillary the national celebrity, and Hillary the presidential prospect. Can you tell us how the AP handles its coverage of Hillary and your role? What do you like best about this beat?
Beth Fouhy: What's amazing about covering Sen. Clinton is how it is both very exciting and often extremely mundane. On the one hand, she is one of the most famous figures in the world -- a former first lady turned New York senator who might become the first woman president of the United States. But on the other hand, she continues to insist -- at least publicly -- that she is solely focused on her Senate re-election campaign, and won't even entertain questions about her presidential prospects no matter how hard she is pushed. So for now, political reporters are in a constant state of wait -- waiting for her to tip her hand, waiting for her to say something that would offer a window into her thinking. In terms of mechanics, right now our coverage of Sen. Clinton is directed by AP's veteran New York political reporter and editor, Marc Humbert. AP's New York regional reporter in Washington, Devlin Barrett, covers her day-to-day activities there. When she gives a major, presidential campaign-style speech or appearance outside New York, it is handled by AP's national political desk in Washington. When and if Sen. Clinton becomes a national candidate, the Washington political desk and our lead political writer, Ron Fournier, will steer the coverage.
JournalismJobs.com: Hillary is obviously a controversial figure who provokes intense feelings on all sides. Is it difficult to maintain the appearance of neutrality when deciding which angles to cover? What is the most challenging part about covering her?
Beth Fouhy: She certainly does provoke intense reaction. Every time I write a story about her, I am deluged by e-mails -- from conservatives who think I'm in the tank with her, and from liberals who think I'm too tough or unfair. Some of the e-mails are really ugly -- full of profanity and vitriol. People just have such strong feelings about her and want to express them. The whole experience has served as a good reminder of the AP's worldwide presence and influence. The best I can do is to stay very clear and focused in my stories, always make the extra phone call, do my research, and resist any temptation to be lazy or cut corners. If I accomplish all that and turn out a fair and credible news story, I feel like I don't have to worry when the e-mails start rolling in.
JournalismJobs.com: Before you took the beat covering Hillary Clinton, you covered Arnold Schwarzenegger's election to California governor. What is the biggest difference between covering West Coast and East Coast politics?
Beth Fouhy: Actually, covering the California recall election and the Schwarzenegger era was good preparation for covering Sen. Clinton. It got me used to dealing with a celebrity candidate, larger than life, who commands a lot more attention than your run-of-the-mill politician. New York is the center of the national media universe, of course, and to many people here, California seems very far away. There's definitely a certain East Coast myopia. But I'm reminded every day how much better rounded a reporter I've become, having covered California. I have a much broader view of the ongoing immigration debate, for example, than I would have had I not spent time in California. And I like to remind people here that New York is losing population while California is 37 million strong and growing. The nation's power center is definitely tipping west.
JournalismJobs.com: Before working at the AP, you were an executive producer for CNN's Inside Politics. Most people move from print to broadcast, but not many go from broadcast to print. How challenging was the transition for you? Do you intend to return to TV news?
Beth Fouhy: CNN was actually great preparation for AP, since both specialize in covering breaking news in real time. Thanks to 13 years at CNN, I've never been intimidated by the pace of AP, while reporters who join AP after working in newspapers are often really overwhelmed by it. I am asked all the time whether I prefer print or television. I can honestly say I love both, and there are plusses and minuses to both. I really enjoy the autonomy of being a print reporter, but I miss the teamwork of television. And while print allows stories to be told with much more breadth and depth, TV still has such a monumental impact. AP is moving toward a lot of media convergence, with the goal of having stories produced across a lot of different platforms -- print, radio, TV, Internet. I'm looking forward to being a part of that and feel like all my years in television will be good preparation.
JournalismJobs.com: As a 2001-2002 Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University, you studied the lives and political concerns of college-age women. Why did you choose this topic? Does your knowledge in this area influence your reporting in any way?
Beth Fouhy: It was something I was curious about both personally and professionally. As a political journalist, you end up covering a lot of stories about the concerns of older people -- Medicare, Social Security -- because older people vote in disproportionally large numbers and politicians bend over backward to heed their concerns. When I was accepted at Stanford, I suddenly realized I'd be walking onto a campus populated by a demographic group I knew nothing about. I was really curious to find out what they cared about, and what was on their minds. And I was especially interested in hearing from college women to see if their lives and concerns were anything like mine were at that age. It's all coming full circle now, with Hillary Clinton possibly poised to run for president and two new justices who might tip the Supreme Court in the direction of overturning or significantly changing Roe vs. Wade. It will be interesting to see how a younger generation of women respond to both of those huge political developments.
JournalismJobs.com: Your father is Ed Fouhy, a well-respected former network news executive. How did he influence your decision to become a journalist?
Beth Fouhy: He's been a huge influence, and I still aspire to be as good a journalist as he was. I tried to stay away from journalism at first, because I didn't want to do the exact same thing my father did. But I quickly realized there are few careers more interesting, exciting and dynamic. It's a cliché, but journalists get to witness history from a front row seat, and not many jobs can beat that.
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