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Featured Alumni: Alissa Swango (IPJ 00)


During her relatively short journalism career, Alissa Swango has covered more ground than many journalists cover in a lifetime. From the Midwest to the East Coast, West Coast, and abroad, she is making her mark as a multimedia field reporter.

With boundless energy and intellectual curiosity, Swango is a journalist who would rather give up sleeping than miss out on an opportunity to explore and report on the world.

As a field producer for USATODAY.com, she collects and packages multimedia content and breaking news for the 24-hours-a-day news site. Based in Seattle, she is the organization’s only field producer to work remotely.

She has produced in-depth coverage of such stories as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Iraq war, and the 2004 presidential campaign and election.   She loves the multi-media format that on-line journalism offers, commenting, “I love talking to people, developing an understanding of their story, and packaging it with multimedia, beyond the traditional, two-dimensional print version.”

While in Seattle, she also did a stint as an interactive producer for MSNBC.com. Her stories included “America at 300 Million” a richly detailed report on the 300 million population milestone that the United States reached in 2006.

A native of Bloomington, Illinois, Swango was majoring in journalism and art at the University of Iowawhen she decided to come to Washington, D.C., to attend the Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ). She came to IPJ to get the kind of national journalism experience she could not get at home. Her internship sponsor, USA TODAY, asked her to stay on after the summer, but she insisted on finishing her degree.

She ultimately ended up rejoining USATODAY.com, but first she spent a summer as the program assistant for IPJ, which solidified her ties to TFAS. “It established a foundation and a family. To this day, the Fund offers a forum to have conversations with people about journalism and politics — something that I miss in Seattle.”

Beyond the friendships and intellectual comradery, TFAS has been hugely important for her in developing contacts. “The media world is small,” Swango remarked, “so having contacts in different organizations helps me brainstorm and discuss stories with colleagues.”

In 2002, she took a month leave of absence from her job to attend a TFAS program in Greece, the International Institute for Political and Economic Systems. In her daily work, she was covering the Middle East conflict and other international breaking news, but she had little firsthand knowledge of the region.

“I had never studied abroad, but TFAS gave me that opportunity,” she said. Through relationships built at the program, she developed a deeper understanding of the lives of people involved in Middle Eastconflicts. “Covering stories across the globe, you often become desensitized to what people are going through.” Remembering the stories of her friends in the region, she gained greater insight into writing stories about the Middle East and international affairs.

In 2005, her curiosity about other parts of the world brought her to Nigeria, where she taught online journalism skills to reporters from 12 newspapers in the capital city.   She also served as a volunteer throughout the continent for several charitable organizations. She equates that charitable work with her work in journalism. For me, she says, “its public service.”

After returning from Africa she moved to the media capital of the world — New York City — where she earned an M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in new media.

Now based on the West Coast, she remains enthusiastic about being a reporter. Discussing a story she is currently working on about credit card fraud, she comments, “I love learning about people and their lives, and also about the bigger issues that affect their lives.”


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