Career Advice from a Reporter at the Journalism Dinner - Kingswood Oxford

Alumni Authors

April 29, 2024

Career Advice from a Reporter at the Journalism Dinner

Rachel Abrahamson ’98, a lifestyle and parenting reporter for today.com with over two decades of experience, was the guest speaker at the 31st Warren Baird Journalism Dinner. She has been the site’s most-read author for over two years, garnering an extraordinary 54 million page views in 2023.

 

While at KO, she actively contributed to epic and the KO News, where Warren Baird supported her writing journey. After KO, she headed to Mount Holyoke College, earning a B.A. in English language and literature and then on to a master’s in creative writing at Johns Hopkins. Although she planned on entering a writing program at NYU, her adviser recommended that she gain real work experience. Heeding his advice, she interned at Us Weekly. At that publication, she developed a love for journalism and reporting and the energy and excitement of the newsrooms while learning the ropes.

 

While at Us Weekly, she had a ringside seat watching Jay Z and Beyonce’s rooftop wedding and interviewing Ryan Gosling, who fed her grapes. Despite these celebrity highlights, she shared that she often had to do the “grunt work” of transcribing tapes for editors and reporters, learning valuable lessons in “how to conduct a good interview, how to ask follow-up questions, and how to be a good journalist.”

 

Abrahamson gave the students practical advice on navigating a career in journalism. She said to ask their bosses if they need help on a project and ask them for career advice on how they got their start. “Everyone you work for is a potential reference,” she said. “Stay in touch with as many coworkers as you can.” When Us Weekly was sold to another media company, she was laid off with the other senior staff. By tapping into her established network, she landed a job as a parenting editor at Today in short order, where she currently works.

 

Abrahamson writes human interest stories, such as those about conjoined twins or a mother with Down Syndrome raising a child. “I really love feel-good happy stories. And my daily goal is to be light in the darkness,” she said, admitting that she often gets choked up several times a week when covering stories of the obstacles her subjects must overcome.

 

To be a good journalist, Abrahamson stressed the importance of research before an interview and asking questions that are not run of the mill, especially when interviewing celebrities. She shared that while she was interviewing Julie Chung, an influencer and celebrity who had just welcomed twins via surrogate, she established a rapport with her and asked her sensitive questions about infertility. “If you ask the questions, you can get a great headline,” she said. Additionally, she said to hold a lengthy pause after you ask a question because the person being interviewed might continue to speak, often offering a juicy tidbit of information that could be the headline.

 

Other helpful tips Abrahamson shared with the students included writing in various styles, from personal essays, long features, short feel-good pieces, and gift guides. By being well-rounded, you are more apt to secure a new job when you lose one, a sad reality in today’s world of journalism.

 

She also told the students not to accept information at face value and fact-check diligently. Although journalism is evolving, Albrahman said, “Your voices are needed. Stories are everywhere. Go and find one.”

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