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From Wordsmith to Newsmaker: Mene Ukueberuwa’s Unique Journalism Career

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What strategies can aspiring journalists use to advance their careers? This week, host Roger Ream is joined by guest Mene Ukueberuwa, Novak ’19, editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, where they delve into Mene’s journey into the field of journalism. From his early days at Dartmouth College, where he honed his writing skills at the Dartmouth Review, to his current role as a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, Mene shares insights into his path to success. Explore how Mene’s background in government informs his perspectives on economics, business, politics and the upcoming presidential election.

Mene is a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, with specialized interests in labor and politics. As a 2019 recipient of TFAS’s Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship, he reported on the project “Work in Progress: How Industry Serves the Needs of the American People.” He is an accomplished writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New Criterion and the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. He holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Dartmouth College.


Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:02] Welcome to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni, faculty, and friends who are making an impact today. I’m your host, Roger Ream. On today’s episode, I’m happy to have Mene Ukueberuwa with me. Mene is a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board with specialized interests in labor, business and politics. He is an accomplished writer and editor whose work has appeared not only in The Wall Street Journal, but also in The New Criterion and the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Mene grew up in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, and holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Dartmouth College. As a 2019 recipient of our Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Award, Mene wrote a paper called “Work in Progress: How Industry Serves the Needs of the American People.” Mene is one of four past TFAS Novak Fellows, working on the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, where we also have three Joseph Rago fellows. Welcome, Mene.  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:01:10] Thanks very much for having me, Roger.   

Roger Ream [00:01:13] Please explain what led you into a career in journalism.  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:01:17] It’s a question that gets to the very earliest years of my life, because I’ve had an interest in it for as long as I could remember. I do remember in my fourth-grade class, I started a little newspaper to circulate to my classmates. I covered a few stories going on in the town. This is in Millburn, New Jersey. We even did little cartoons, for it. We called it “The Gopher Gazette,” and had the teacher help us with printing copies of that, that we circulated. Only lasted a single issue. Unfortunately, I didn’t have quite the vision or the perseverance yet as a kid, but I don’t think it was a coincidence that I had that interest, even at a young age and started reading and watching the news very regularly. Even before I was a teenager and went to college, not necessarily knowing for sure yet that I wanted to make a career out of journalism but knowing that it was going to be a lifelong interest of mine. I think that the reason for that is because I just liked to talk to people, interview them about their lives, their professions, their experiences and to try to tell those stories from an interesting angle, and to try to point readers attention to some of the interesting aspects of life, whether that’s politics, whether that’s business or just ordinary daily life, that might be hard to see, unless there’s someone who makes it their job to go looking for it and to tell that story. So, that’s what I still try to do in the job.  

Roger Ream [00:02:44] So, you went off to Dartmouth and joined The Dartmouth Review staff and became the editor in chief there. Did you give consideration as to whether to go to the official newspaper there or join on with the alternative paper on campus, the independent paper?   

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:03:03] That’s a that’s a good question, because Dartmouth, like a lot of colleges, does have two big papers, and there’s The Dartmouth, which is daily and is more focused on reporting the goings on of the administration and kind of core college news. The Dartmouth Review is an independent conservative newspaper, and a little bit more essayistic in its form, a longer article, opinion focused and getting beneath the surface, not merely reporting the events, but trying to do analysis of what does this mean for where the college is going in terms of spending, in terms of the curriculum, in terms of student life. I was always much more drawn to at The Dartmouth Review from the beginning, in part because I was looking for, intellectual community and particularly a conservative one. I was blossoming as a political conservative during those years in my life. So, I wanted to be around like-minded students. But specifically, I heard of The Dartmouth Review, when my dad was driving me up to campus to begin my freshman fall term. I just had happened to read an article in The Washington Post by a fellow named Dinesh D’Souza, who I had never heard of at the time. I remember debating the ideas that D’Souza was bringing up in this article with my dad, who is less conservative than I am. And he mentioned: “You should know that D’Souza actually attended Dartmouth, which is where we’re driving right now.” So, I investigated his biography and saw that he had been one of the early members of The Dartmouth Review, and so I made sure to seek out that newspaper as soon as I got to campus, and the rest was history.  

Roger Ream [00:04:39] Of course, the Dartmouth Review is, perhaps the gold standard of independent papers. It’s certainly one that’s been there the longest and had a storied number of editors and writers for it to have gone on to distinguished careers in journalism and elsewhere. Were there any major controversies that you had to deal with as the editor, or was it kind of a quiet time on campus?  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:05:04] I would say I didn’t have to deal with controversies of our own making, which I’m very glad to be able to say. I think The Dartmouth Review has, throughout its entire history since it was founded in 1980, has swung between periods of provocation, stunts around campus and trying to really stir the pot and periods where it was more focused on telling the story of Dartmouth’s history, keeping a close watch on the administration from a critical perspective, but not necessarily picking fights for their own sake. I tried to be an editor more in the second vein, not shying from a fight when one needed to be had, but also not stirring up controversy or trying to pick fights with student groups just for the sake of having a little bit of fun here and there. I will say that when I was editor in 2015 until 2016, this is when you had a big upsurge in the student protest movements, which are still with us today, and you had a lot of race-based protests. We had to cover all of that. We had a big march where there were students who got dressed up all in black and walked through the library and not only were chanting and disrupting studying, but in some cases were singling out students and shouting at them directly, which is unacceptable behavior on the campus. So, we told the story in full, and we got a lot of flak for that. We did face challenges saying that we were racist or we’re trying to defend the racist legacy of the institution, but we felt that it was our job to let not only students, but alumni know, what was going on the campus. I think our coverage really helped to stir a big response from a lot of the alumni who were calling the administration to make sure that some of the student provocateurs in the protest were going to be punished for what they had done. So, we didn’t necessarily start controversies, but, at college these days, you can’t hide from them. So, we got involved, and I’m very glad that we did, and I’m proud of the coverage that we did during those years.  

Roger Ream [00:07:04] We may come back to this because we’re certainly seeing that on campus since October 7th, much to the surprise of some people, but no doubt something you weren’t surprised to see, except maybe to the degree we’re seeing it. Let me first shift to, you came out of Dartmouth, and I think became the Hilton Kramer Fellow at The New Criterion, which is another very distinguished and coveted position for someone coming out of college. I know to get that experience at The New Criterion and work with the team there, which I have great respect for. You had the chance to write some interesting pieces there. I remember a review you wrote of a book by Mark Lilla, and you published some other pieces as well. How long was that position there? Was that just a summer internship, basically, or fellowship?  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:07:49] It’s a yearlong fellowship, which was nice. Coming out of college, as you mentioned, my first job and first time working as a professional writer and editor, and it really was an ideal experience for a couple of reasons. One is that The New Criterion is a monthly magazine with a small editorial staff. There are about five full time editors, no staff writers. All the contributions come from people who are sort of in the circle of the magazine, who send in pieces, sometimes on a retainer. They write every single month, or sometimes people send in book reviews, as they happen to, but the actual core staff of the magazine is very small, which meant that I got to see how the entire thing is done from start to finish. Every month we would have a meeting where Roger Kimball, the editor, would talk about what the features might be for that edition. Some issues would have a special theme, so we would talk about that, and then over the course of the month, we’d be in touch with our contributors about getting the contributions in. We would all divide up the editing. I was able also to talk to the printer and have a meeting with them and talk with the team that helped us with our circulation and with our website. It was great, as opposed to going directly to a very large publication where things can be siloed among different departments and you’re only really seeing one small part of the whole to really understand how the publication gets made from start to finish. Another thing I loved about it was that I had never really had deep exposure to the world of the arts and culture. It had always been interests of mine. I like to go visit museums, I like to see shows, but I never worked in that world professionally or studied it. And working of The New Criterion for that first year at a college I always described as being like a post back year in the liberal arts, because I was doing very deep immersion in culture and the arts and learning to orient, not just at an intellectual level, as editing the pieces that would go into the magazine but orient in the world of culture in New York. I had so many opportunities to go with our contributors to museum exhibitions, or to see classical music concerts at the New York Philharmonic or at the Metropolitan Opera, and those are still hobbies that I maintain to this day. So, it gave me a fantastic foundation, not just professionally, but also kind of in my own life, appreciating some of these topics I hadn’t been exposed to.  

Roger Ream [00:10:10] That’s great. What a great experience. And then getting plucked by, your fellow Dartmouth alum, Paul Gigot, to come work at The Wall Street Journal. And while there, we were pleased to award you, The Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship. The objective of Bob Novak and Tom Phillips, who originally developed that fellowship program that we run now is to try to help some young person who’s in journalism, who’s already in the profession, find some opportunity to pursue a writing project. And your topic was “Work in Progress: How industry Serves the Needs of the American People.” I thought it was a fascinating topic that you wrote about. Could you talk some about that project and kind of how you went about researching it and writing it?   

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:11:02] Absolutely. So, first, thank you very much for inviting me to take part in the Novak Fellowship. It was an incredible opportunity to develop as a journalist, in exactly the ways you describe, being able to focus on a single topic, over the course of a year, across several essays, really helped me to build expertise on the economic subjects that I was covering. I developed an interest in that topic of the state of the American workforce in 2018 and 2019, because I think listeners will remember that after Donald Trump was elected, which was a surprise both to his critics and his supporters, there was sort of a big scramble among journalists to find out exactly why that had happened. Some people pointed to cultural reasons, the idea that the white working class, was disconnected from the elites governing the country and wanted to put someone in office who would be able to reflect their opposition to progressive culture. But there was also a lot of focus on the state of work and the idea that certain industries that used to be a home base for a lot of working-class Americans had declined a lot and left them without any opportunity to find fruitful employment, to marry and take care of their families, buy homes. So, I had read a lot of coverage in that vein, and I think that there was a lot of truth to the theory that was being proposed. A lot of people had been destabilized by trade, immigration, different economic changes, but I think that most of that change was very localized in specific industries and specific places. Whereas if you looked at the entire American economy more broadly, you still saw broad job gains, in a variety of different industries, including ones that are available to people without a college degree and people who are living far away from the coasts in what would be called the American heartland. It seems like an exaggeration and a dangerous one to say that there were no longer opportunities for fruitful work for middle- and working-class Americans at large. So, during my fellowship, I wanted to do different stories on two different parts of this question. One is how is American industry doing? Are we still innovating? Are we still providing new jobs? Are we still being able to manufacture and export goods in the way that historically we had? And then I wanted to look at it from the worker’s perspective to what does employment look like in the 21st century for middle- and working-class people? And my answer, I think was very much that the nature of work has changed a lot. Some regions have been hit very hard; some industries have been hit very hard. But still, there is a fundamentally strong economy in this country that provides great opportunities for most Americans, and we should make sure to, preserve the policies that have allowed that to take place rather than overcorrecting in the way that I think President Trump and some of his supporters attempted to do.  

Roger Ream [00:14:01] Yeah, that that is a very important topic because there’s this misconception that our industrial capacity is being destroyed. And, while employment in, in manufacturing has certainly fallen, as you just pointed out, output is continuing to grow and the number of jobs our economy is generating overall is adding millions of jobs a year. Let’s bring it up to date today, the Biden administration, through the FTC and the Antitrust Division and even the SCC have taken a lot of steps away from what has been kind of standard procedure, I think, of those agencies through several administrations, and they’re trying to, I’ll put it as kind of tame the forces of creative destruction that the drive, innovation and growth in our economy through enforcement actions and rulemaking. Have you been following that for the journal in the last year or two? What are your thoughts about that?  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:15:03] Absolutely. So, the Federal Trade Commission in particular, is an agency that my colleagues and I follow very closely. And because it has an extremely important role in ideally staying limited to its core mission, which is pursuing unfair business practices, but it does have the ability to bring antitrust lawsuits, which it’s supposed to do in cases where a proposed merger is clearly going to have an uncompetitive effect that hurts consumers, for example, by raising prices. But exactly in the way you describe a lot of the current progressive thinking as embodied by President Biden and by the FTC chairman he appointed, Lina Khan, suggests that size itself is a problem. And even if you can’t point to specific evidence that the behavior of these companies is harming consumers, by unfairly raising prices through concentrated power, and that these businesses should be stopped from merging simply because we want to have more players in all these industries, and that’s automatically going to benefit consumers. So, we’ve seen them bringing lawsuit after lawsuit against mergers in different industries. Just recently we had them challenge the proposed merger between Kroger and Albertsons, two very large grocery store chains, under the theory that they’re going to be able to raise prices and going to be able to pay lower wages to their workers if they merge. But they’re completely misconstruing the state of the industry, because even if Kroger and Albertsons have a very large share of the grocery market, they’re facing competition from an unprecedented number of other companies. You have a lot of online companies that are now being able to compete with them, etc. So, often people who are looking at antitrust from this narrow perspective, aren’t paying close attention to the ways that the industries that they’re regulating are extremely dynamic. So, that’s something we want to inform our readers of. That overzealous government has the opportunity to prevent these types of corporate mergers, which can be very beneficial because they can enhance competition. So, that’s one of the subjects that we cover.  

Roger Ream [00:17:14] Yeah, beneficial for consumers and workers alike and those companies. We saw a similar action on the proposed merger between Spirit Airlines and JetBlue, which on the surface, to me seemed to create a competitor to the large airlines that are already operating out there. If they don’t allow these types of mergers could lead to a shrinking of competition and shrinking of those airlines. Do you also do work in terms of the impact on the labor market? Well, I’ll say the recent decisions that have been made to strengthen unions in this country and the impact that will have on the labor force.  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:17:56] Absolutely. I think that the Biden administration, similarly, is very, very devoted to promoting the interests of organized labor, and it’s no surprise why obviously, the Democratic Party at large and Joe Biden particularly, gain a lot of their political support and a lot of their donations from these labor organizations. So, once in office, there’s very much the expectation that you’re going to repay that favor by tilting the landscape in a way that’s going to be more favorable to the interests of unions. One of the ways we’ve seen this playing out is with tariff policy. President Biden, during his campaign, implied very strongly and in some cases said that he wanted to reverse some of President Trump’s tariffs on industries like steel and aluminum. And the idea was that we wanted to repair alliances with our trading partners. We wanted to open ourselves to the world again, and we wanted to promote growth. But President Biden, once in office, has been very, very slow and in many cases reluctant to repeal those tariffs. And that is mostly because of the influence of unions. You have unions in some of these industries where tariffs are being applied, who love these protectionist impulses because it’s going to boost the number of purchases that are going to their own domestic companies, insulate them from foreign competition, which means they’re able to direct more of that revenue towards their own employees. As opposed to an open and competitive import market where, different industries can buy from overseas and then can channel the savings from those cheaper imports, into the customers. So, tariffs sometimes will benefit employees in a particular industry, but at the cost of overall growth and consumer welfare across the economy. But nonetheless, we’ve seen the Biden administration remain beholden to that. So, that’s another one of those labor issues that could be very complicated, that we’re keeping a close eye on, because it does, over time, have a very potent effect on hiring, on the price of goods, all these sorts of things that affect the ordinary experience of Americans.  

Roger Ream [00:20:00] Mene, how would you assess the state of journalism today? I mean, we’re in an election year. The role of the media is important to influencing people’s attitudes and ultimately the way they’re voting. Do you have any thoughts about the state of journalism from your perch there at The Wall Street Journal?  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:20:19] Yeah, well, there are a couple of things to say about it. One is that I think Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the option that it seems like we’re headed to, between President Biden and President Trump facing off in a rematch in the 2024 election. As has been pointed out again and again, they’re both deeply unpopular, with the American people at large, but by some kind of inertia, they seem to be, headed towards being renominated and having faced serious challengers or potential challengers. So, I think that that is the dispiriting outcome that we seem to be headed to, and that affects the state of journalism, because a presidential election should be an occasion for readers to be drawn in and to see which direction might America be headed? What vision are the candidates presenting for where America might go? What do our choices about who we’re going to nominate for the presidency say about the character of America currently? And what our most important values are? But if you have two deeply unpopular people in those positions, people just don’t have the same zeal and the same energy to read regularly and to follow every twist and turn of the race as they might have, in a different election year, where there seemed like the possibility of a big change coming to the country was there. So, I do think that that is affecting readership, to be frank. It’s kind of a little bit of a slow time, compared with past presidential election years. And I think another big question is a how exactly is the mainstream media at large going to cover the race differently than it has in the past few cycles, particularly since Donald Trump has been a central figure on the American scene? I do think that in 2015 and 2016, when Trump first showed that he was going to be a very serious candidate, a lot of the sort of left leaning mainstream media in this country decided to dispense with some of the ordinary norms of how it would cover a presidential campaign, thinking that President Trump was such a unique threat. Even compared with past Republican candidates who they might not have liked, but thinking that Trump himself was such a big threat, and frankly, that he was so untruthful that he told outright lies so often that they had to change the way they covered him, and explicitly attempt to essentially, oppose his campaign because he presented too much danger to the country, would he be elected? So, that led to a lot of grave journalistic mistakes. One being the Hunter Biden laptop story, where there was very good evidence that the New York Post had collected of Hunter Biden, had his authentic laptop with photos and certain evidence of the misdeeds that he had gotten up to. And you saw not only the mainstream press, but also social media, suppressing those reports because they believed that they were Russian disinformation and believed that the impact of those reports would have two positive effects on the Trump candidacy and the Trump campaign. You had years later seen a lot of Mia Culpas for how that coverage was handled. But I do think it’s an open question right now. How are some of these big left leaning publications going to balance their criticism of Donald Trump, particularly under all the lawsuits and the criminal trials that he faces with still trying to be objective. Are they going to be able to correct some of their overzealous opposition to his campaign, or are they going to make the same mistakes and suppress valid news, in ways that really deprive the readers of having all the information that they need to know to make an informed choice? So, I can’t say I’m optimistic about that question, but it’s something that all of us journalists are going to be watching very closely.  

Roger Ream [00:24:18] If I could shift gears just a little bit, last May of 2023, you wrote a piece about the sudden death of your brother, Begho. He died of complications suffered while running a half marathon in Rhode Island. It’s a beautiful piece you wrote about a tragic event. I want to, first, express my sincere condolences to you, Mene. Would you mind talking about the process of writing such a heartfelt piece about your brother and his faith?  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:24:49] Well, thank you so much. I appreciate your condolences. It really was a sudden loss. He hadn’t been sick to any of our knowledge, and we weren’t aware that he had any kind of underlying health condition. But it turned out that, over the course of weeks training for this half marathon, he had been experiencing severe muscle breakdown, and that became acute during the race itself, and complications from that ended up taking his life. So, my family and I were able to gather in Rhode Island at the hospital, to say goodbye, and the next week was spent making arrangements, of course. In the back of my mind was the strong feeling that I wanted to memorialize, of course, not only the events around his death, but also his life, and to have that on the record, so that people would know the type of man he was and the life he led. And, something that me and my family and, maybe my children someday would be able to look back on to have a sense of who my brother was and the impact that he had on other people, and something that would be contemporary to the time, written while it was fresh in my mind. So, the approach I wanted to take with the piece was answering the question of what his life might have looked like if it hadn’t been so suddenly taken. I do think often when people die untimely deaths, particularly very young people, there’s the question of who knows what he would have done, what kind of great works this person would have produced if he had been given more time. And that’s a very valid question to ask. But at the same time, I actually felt very sure about that question because I knew my brother, I knew what he loved, I knew who he loved, I knew all of his gifts that he shared, and it was actually very easy for me to imagine what his life would have looked like if he had continued living, that he would have gotten married and raised a family in the Catholic faith that the two of us both shared, that he would have continued to prosper in his career as a producer of movies, the career for which he had incredible passion and incredible talent, and that he would have continued to be an incredible presence in my life and the lives of his friends. So, I wanted to share that not only for myself, but also for any other readers who might have also experienced untimely loss that there is a certain amount of reassurance and peace to be taken in envisioning the life that this person would have had. And there isn’t doubt always around deter because, when people are good and they have good gifts and talents, they tend to continue, applying those gifts and talents. And it was incredibly rewarding and comforting for me to envision what his life would have looked like, and I have no doubt about what it would have looked like.  

Roger Ream [00:27:41] Well, someone else who we lost, whose path intertwined with yours, of course, was Joe Rago, who died at the age of 34 suddenly. He had been at The Dartmouth Review and wrote for New Criterion, I think, and then at The Wall Street Journal, a colleague, there who won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing on the Affordable Care Act. We’ve been able to continue his legacy through the Rago Fellowship Program at The Journal, which is a wonderful way to, honor that legacy. You knew Joe. I don’t know to what extent you worked with him directly because of timing of things. You were kind of following him. Could you talk about Joe and where you worked together and how you knew him?  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:28:37] Absolutely. So, I first learned of Joe Rago during my first couple of visits to The Dartmouth Review office my freshman year at Dartmouth, because he was absolutely a living legend. This was before his Pulitzer Prize. Even, he would win that later that year in the spring, but he was about ten years ahead of me, had been the editor of the Dartmouth Review, and it was very common, even for students who had known him personally, to tell the story of his prowess as a writer and an editor. It was common for us, especially on, sort of big weekends at the college for special issues to reprint some of the works that he had written as a student, because they were just that good, telling the history of things like Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival or the history of certain presidents of the college, and this was all research that he had done merely out of his own interest, despite a very busy schedule as a student, go into the archives at the college and writing these sort of incredibly, beautifully written, deeply researched tomes, and often with a ton of humor. He was an extremely funny and witty writer. So, he set the standard of what we wanted to aspire to, continuing that legacy at the Dartmouth Review. And then I got to know him because he was on the board of the Dartmouth Review still during his time at The Wall Street Journal. So, a couple times a year, he would come up to campus for meetings and was always very interested in getting to know the students. Particularly once I became the editor, I can remember several occasions where the two of us were able to talk one on one, just walk around the campus. I was extremely honored that he was making time again, despite a very busy schedule and prestigious career, to take an interest in me and my work at the Dartmouth Review. And then I came to The Wall Street Journal in 2017 for the Bartley Fellowship, which is a summer fellowship, and that was the first time the two of us were together in New York, and that ended up being the summer that he died. So, it was about a few weeks into when I had come into The Journal that he died very suddenly, as you mentioned. I remember being a part of that mourning process with my new colleagues who I was just getting to know and with some of the Dartmouth friends and associates who we had in common. And it was just a completely striking loss in the same way, thinking about what his career would have looked like if he had continued on the great pieces, that he would have continued to write, and there wasn’t anything that we could do except, pay tribute to him, to publish pieces that he had written, so that readers would have a very clear sense of the journalists that he was. I’m extremely grateful that The Journal Editorial Page and The Fund for American Studies have worked together to put that Rago Fellowship into action and have a standing, lasting tribute to invite more young journalists to share in his legacy. So, thank you for that.   

Roger Ream [00:31:39] Yeah, we have two young people who received the fellowship who are colleagues of yours now, Elliot Kaufman, who I think is the letters editor and Faith Bottom. Our current Fellow, Sierra McClain, is working there. And just very recently we announced we will be doing two fellows, each year, and we’ve just selected two who will start in September. We haven’t released the names yet, so I can’t reveal them on this podcast, but I think there are two outstanding young people who will flourish as the Rago fellows at The Wall Street Journal. Have you had the opportunity to work some with Faith and Elliott at The Journal?  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:32:18] Absolutely. I mean, I was on the op-ed team, which is where the the Rago Fellow is assigned. When Elliott came in, I believe, we sat right next to each other and were editing columnists and op-eds every single day for the daily edition of the paper. Of course, Elliott is now our full-time letters editor. So, whenever I write a piece or any of my colleagues write a piece, and readers are reacting to it, Elliott will be the conduit to sort of let us know all the incoming that we’re getting from this politician or that business. And, of course, he is also writing editorials on Israel now, with great success. And Faith came in also after I was, already an editorial writer. So, we weren’t on the op-Ed team at the same time, but I remember being extremely impressed by how developed her writing ability was, coming in right out of college and being able to go on reporting trips and not only capture the facts and core details of these stories, but write with sort of incredible eye for detail and incredible ability to characterize the people who she was covering. So, if you’re picking them well, Roger. Please, keep it coming. I could say the same for Sierra. We’ve had incredible success with the fellowship, and I hope and expect that it’ll continue.   

Roger Ream [00:33:39] What advice would you give to a young person who’s say, in college and thinking about a career in journalism? How can they prepare? What kinds of things would you recommend to them?  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:33:51] It’s an interesting question, because I do think it’s a field that almost everyone interacts with. Most people do read the news and read essays, very regularly, but I think very few people have the opportunity to meet a journalist. It’s a small field. There actually aren’t that many of us and I think a lot of people who have an interest in it just don’t know how to begin, because they might not know exactly the steps, you’re supposed to take in order to land a position at a newspaper or magazine. So, a couple things that I would recommend are trying very specifically to write in a publishable style. If you’re a student writer, who writes essays, obviously, for the courses that you take and maybe writes also for a campus publication, I think paying very close attention to the ways that professional popular writing often varies from academic writing. I think that there is, a lightness, a breeziness to the way that professional journalists tend to write, that isn’t always taught in college. A lot of the people who are submitting pieces to us or are seeking to join our publications right out of college, I think sometimes can struggle to make that adjustment from an academic style of writing to a popular style of writing. So, I would say the sooner that you can get practice, writing pieces, in the style that professional publications tend to write them, the better able you will be to get submissions published, and to potentially find a spot on the staff of one of these publications. And then another thing I’d advise is to look for these fellowships, as you, Roger, were just mentioning, that’s where I started my career, a yearlong fellowship at The New Criterion, and then a summer fellowship at The Wall Street Journal. Because the editorial staffs are very small, we tend not to be able to hire full-time right out of college. The way that you get in the door is through one of these fellowships. They’re paid, not always extremely robustly, but usually enough to make you comfortable, in those first early years. And they do give you a good exposure to the work that’s been done. Often, you’ll have regular editing responsibilities, but you’ll also have the opportunity to pitch and submit your own writing, and just learn how the business is done. Once you do one of these fellowships successfully, then that’s when you might have the chance to be retained, full-time, if everything lines up in your favor. So, I would encourage people who are interested in getting an entry level job in journalism to look for fellowships and publications that they like to read or that they have an interest in and see if they can apply early and potentially begin their career in one of those spots.  

Roger Ream [00:36:41] Well, that’s outstanding advice and advice will share with young people we’re working with on campus now. We’ve been growing a network of campus newspapers, including The Dartmouth Review, working to help strengthen them, encourage them to bring in more freshmen to make sure that they perpetuate what they’re doing. We just did a program recently in Charlottesville and we’re doing them in Chicago, New York, seminars for campus journalists to help. Our goal is to increase the pipeline of young people going into journalism and through these fellowships, including ones we want to expand, we’ll hopefully give them more opportunities. So, rather than choosing a career in the financial world, not that there’s anything wrong with that, they might consider journalism as a calling that they can excel in, as you have and as our other Rago fellows at the Journal have.  

[00:37:40] Mene, it’s been a pleasure to talk this morning. I wish we weren’t out of time, but good luck to you for continued success in journalism. I know you also write and work with the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal in addition to it at The Wall Street Journal, and congratulations on your recent marriage. All the best for your continued success.  

Mene Ukueberuwa [00:38:00] Thanks so much, Roger. It was great to talk to you and appreciate the opportunity to think about the profession and reflect on some of the things I’ve had the blessing to be able to do in the past couple of years.  

Roger Ream [00:38:11] Thank you.  

Roger Ream [00:38:13] Thank you for listening to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast. If you have a comment or question, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org and be sure to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app and leave a five-star review. Liberty + leadership is produced at Podville Media. I’m your host, Roger Ream, and until next time, show courage in things large and small.  

ABOUT THE PODCAST

TFAS has reached more than 49,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Liberty + Leadership is a conversation with TFAS alumni, faculty and friends who are making a real impact. Hosted by TFAS President Roger Ream ’76, the podcast covers guests’ experiences, career stories and leadership journeys. 

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.

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