Home » News » Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Nicholas Ballasy on Being a Modern Day Reporter

Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Nicholas Ballasy on Being a Modern Day Reporter


Nicholas Ballasy ’07 is a broadcast journalist and Senior Correspondent for Just the News who for well over a decade has been questioning political leaders, news makers, and some of Hollywood’s elite including, Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, and Samuel L. Jackson.

In this week’s of the Liberty and Leadership Podcast, Roger and Nicholas discuss how he started his journalism journey in college, his knack for grabbing impromptu news-making interviews with power-players from Washington and Hollywood, and how his TFAS experience help propel his career.

The Liberty + Leadership Podcast is hosted by TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 and produced by kglobal. If you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org.


Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:00] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty and Leadership podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni who are making a real impact in politics, public policy, government, business, philanthropy, law, and the media. Today, I’m joined by a very special guest, Nick Ballasy, award winning journalist and an alumnus of the 2007 Institute on Political Journalism. Nicholas has been providing hard hitting, no holds barred interviews with top politicians, Oscar winners, film stars, television hosts and Grammy Award winners, including former President Trump.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:00:40] You do not want to cut any entitlements, correct?

Donald Trump [00:00:44] I’m not going to be cutting Social Security.

Roger Ream [00:00:46] Matt Damon.

Matt Damon [00:00:47] Everybody’s talking their money away. That did not create any. Nobody, nobody started a business with the Bush tax cuts.

Roger Ream [00:00:54] Samuel L. Jackson.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:00:56] Can you talk about your tweet? Are you going to leave the U.S. or are you staying here? Just asking. You just tweeted it out. I’m reading your tweet, reading your Twitter.

Samuel L. Jackson [00:01:07] I tweeted that.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:01:10] That’s it? Nothing else?

Samuel L. Jackson [00:01:11] That’s my Twitter account. Just like he has a Twitter account and I used it. Look, everybody keeps saying I said I was leaving. I was doing a Jimmy Kimmel skit. I was portraying a magic eight ball. You remember that? Did you see that?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:01:22] I did.

Samuel L. Jackson [00:01:23] So why does everybody think that’s my personal opinion? Nobody attributes those first two questions to my personal opinion.

Roger Ream [00:01:29] And Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton [00:01:30] He was a doer who served the people who sent him to Congress for 59 years, loved this country, wanted it to become better and better and to give more people a real shot at a future that would fulfill their potential.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:01:47] Secretary Clinton, one other question for you about 2020. What do you think of the candidates? Are you happy? Are you going to run?

Roger Ream [00:01:54] He’s known for asking tough questions about the biggest political issues of today. His reporting has earned him several awards, not to mention a reputation as one of the leading prominent investigative journalists in Washington, D.C. Nicholas, I’m excited to hear more about the work you’ve been doing and your career since TFAS. Thank you for joining me today.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:02:15] Thanks so much for having me, Roger. I appreciate it.

Roger Ream [00:02:17] Well, it’s always a pleasure to see you. I’m glad it is a regular occurrence because, first of all, you are often coming back to TFAS programs to advise and mentor our students, and we’re grateful for that. You’ve been a good friend of this organization, so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to talk to you a day, particularly with the many amazing things you’ve done in your career.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:02:39] TFAS has been really great and a huge asset when it comes to helping plug alumni into the organization, especially in Washington, and connecting with other alums and the students as well. And it’s just been a great experience.

Roger Ream [00:02:58] Well, now let’s go back to when you came to our program from Rider. And that was in 2007. It was the Institute on Political Journalism then and now it’s the program on Journalism and Communications. But we still have that strong focus on political journalism. You had an interesting internship. Tell me about that internship you served in at that time.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:03:20] Yes. So I was a professor in the political science department, actually, at Rider University. Dr. Rusciano, he knew I was very active with the TV station at Rider. I was hosting a public affairs show at the time on the issues where I would interview political figures who were coming to New Jersey to campaign for different candidates. We had John McCain coming. Bill Clinton came. I actually was able to get Bill Clinton off to the side and answer a few questions at a rally in the area. So they knew this was my expertise already at the college doing these political interviews and tying it in to, if I could, you know, specifically issues important to students, but also just issues that were important to the community because the show actually aired on public access TV in the area. So I was trying to reach different audiences with the show. And so he told me about the TFAS program. Rusciano, the professor and I wound up one thing led to another, got connected with Joe Starrs, who is just a great all around guy. And we hit it off right away on the phone. And one thing led to another. I wound up doing an internship at CNN, with the White House unit in Washington and had a chance to actually go to the White House with the team and cover events there. Cover events with President Bush at the time off the White House grounds, out in Washington. And really just looking back at the whole experience, plugged me in to Washington. I knew this is what I wanted to do. TFAS confirmed it though being able to be in this internship, take these classes at Georgetown, get used to living in Washington, and I knew that’s where I wanted to come back and work.

Roger Ream [00:05:21] For people listening. Joe Starrs, who you mentioned was the director of the program, still is. And just really has a commitment to helping journalism students find strong internships, have a great experience in our program and be successful in their careers in journalism. So I wanted to throw a few kudos in Joe’s way to echo what you just said, Nick.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:05:45] Absolutely. And we hit it off right away. He helped me, you know, navigate everything with the program, answering questions, because, of course, this was a new experience for me. And I know he’s been a great asset for a lot of the students who are looking to get into the program and have questions as to how everything’s going to work. And he’s very responsive and he’s great. And it was overall, I have so many stories that I still remember about, you know, my time at CNN with the White House unit. And still today, when I go to the White House to cover things, I see people that either I met through that internship who were interning with me, and now they’re in different media outlets or people who worked at CNN at the time and went to a different media outlet. And I worked with them at the time during the internship. So just making those connections, you never know where they’re going to lead, which is something I always tell students at TFAS events that you just never know who you may be sitting next to at your internship, who one day you’ll see out in the field while you’re working, and you never know where that relationship will lead.

Roger Ream [00:06:53] Yeah and then you also took courses for academic credit at Georgetown that we sponsor. Did you take a course in economics at that time?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:07:03] I did. And it really pays off because I can’t tell you how important, knowing just the basics of how the economy functions, all the terms when it comes to economic policy and just what they mean. You know, not just learning what the term is, but exactly what function it has in terms of making the economy move. And it helps you formulate questions. And I can’t tell you how that has benefited preparing for interviews with policymakers who are making these decisions, voting on these bills that impact the deficit, impact the national debt. I mean, I could go on and on, but just a summary would be, you know, like the unfunded liabilities, people don’t talk enough about promised benefits in these programs and Social Security and Medicare. And I learned about that in Reiche’s class in economics. He talked about how Social Security really works. How, you know, you’re taxed. You have to pay the Social Security tax but how does the program work? How did it get started? What was it like when it got started versus what the program looks like now? And, you know, it never occurred to me when I was in that class you weren’t thinking until he brought it up about how long you can have in terms of the benefits when the trust fund could go insolvent. I mean and now we have all these reports that come out every year by the trustees that go through every single thing, line by line of how long the program has and what Congress needs to do to fix it. So those things always come in handy today in my reporting in Congress.

Roger Ream [00:08:49] Yeah, we’ll get into talking about some of the interviews you’ve conducted in your career, but I would imagine, given the type of people you’ve interviewed, you have to have that kind of base of knowledge to overcome any kind of nervousness you might have. At least I would have talking to some of the people you’ve talked to and to be able to ask questions on the go like that. But we’ll get to that in a minute. I did want to ask, I seem to recall in a profile we had of you in an earlier newsletter that you not only worked in media when you were at Rider and it was aired on public television, but you won an award at the time, right? Was it a Telly?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:09:27] Right? Yeah. Tell you more, because we the show that I was telling you about on the issues. I used to also when we had the campus, I mean, we bring in some big names to come speak to the students. I quickly realized as a freshman that they were coming in and they were leaving and there was no like record of them being there other than a picture. Sometimes their contracts allowed the campus TV station to record the speech, but not always. So I used to work with students and faculty on the council that brought in the talent to, you know, set up an interview to speak to the college television station one on one. And I would have students from the TV station come with me to record, students who were working in video production. So we all worked together as a team. I would formulate the questions. And again, just that hands on experience. I used so many of those skills I learned back then on campus in the real world and, you know, preparing your questions, doing all the legwork, contacting the staff involved in the event, getting access, putting in a request with the talent. If you can’t get the interview, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to speak to media after their speech. So just learning how to put something together from an idea to actually putting it into a format, whether it’s a show or a news package and getting that video out there is something I was doing back then and that Telly   award was for Chris Wallace at the time was the Fox News Sunday host. He came to speak to the students and then I talked to him before the speech about issues and current events at the time, whether it was the war in Iraq or other hot button issues. And then, of course, about journalism and what it’s like being, you know, one of the top journalists in Washington and how he goes about his job preparing for his interview. So while doing these things and documenting them, coming to the campus, I was able to pick up a lot of knowledge along the way about just how, you know, you report on such important topics like Chris has been doing in his career.

Roger Ream [00:11:40] Well, we’ve shared a few of the clips from your career. There’s a whole lot of them. We couldn’t share them all. We’ve shared just a handful. But let me ask you, of all these interviews you’ve done with Hollywood celebrities, with politicians, with a whole host of other people, which are some of your favorites that you’ve really enjoyed doing, either because of who it was you interviewed or because of things you got people to say?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:12:06] Yeah. So looking back, it’s been wow, it’s been almost 15 years. Time flies, it really does. But yeah, there’s been so many, I would say, one that sticks out of my head in terms of politics. If you look at someone like Hillary Clinton, who people thought at least in Washington when she was a candidate or when she was secretary of state, it was always hard to kind of get her unless you got a formal interview request approved. It’s very hard to kind of when she shows up at an event on Capitol Hill or when she shows up at a campaign event, it was always hard to get close to her and be able to ask her something and get a response. It’s just always been difficult. And I was able to interview her.

Roger Ream [00:12:51] At a funeral, right? John Dingell’s funeral was it?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:12:53] It was. I was covering Dingell’s funeral. A lot of reporters were there. And afterward, outside, she was sticking around and talking to people, you know, attendees. And I was able to go up to her and ask her about Dingell’s legacy. And then I got in a few other questions about other topics, and she was super approachable. Now, granted, this was after the 2016 campaign, but still it was it was an experience being able to interview her and talk to her. I interviewed her one more time after that at a different event and was able to ask her about a president at the time, President Trump’s policy toward Iran and how things were working in that way. And she was able to answer the questions. Even one of her staffers I heard said, Oh, we have an impromptu interview going on here. So I think people see a lot of these clips that you mentioned and they’re like, wow, he’s always out there. He’s getting this, he’s getting this person to talk. But I do I have done a good amount of formal set up interviews, but I do love being where the action is. You know, for example, on Capitol Hill, there’s a press conference about a bill, but then right afterward, you can go up to the members and ask specific questions about the legislation that you may not be able to get. You know, in an informal setting, you’ve got the staff around. It’s a little more uptight. You’ve got to kind of start with more basic questions and then get into the meat. I like to just kind of go for it, you know, and that’s what I’ve always been doing. But Hillary Clinton, she’s just one example. I would say I interviewed John McCain a lot. He was always a good interview talking about the bipartisan legislation he was working on. He was always trying to reach across the aisle. There was plenty interactions I’ve had with him. When it comes to the celebrity stuff, which tends to get over my career, a lot of clicks. I like it when they come to Washington. I like to ask them about politics. Most of the time they’re here for something connected to the political process or an issue they’re passionate about or a charity that they’re supporting whose involved in a certain issue. Denzel Washington is one that sticks out. He was here promoting his Fences movie. And this is 2016 and this was right after the presidential election. And there was this fake news story going around that he endorsed President Trump. It was one of those stories where people shared it like crazy on Facebook, but it’s from some, like, random blog that’s not even legitimate. And so I took it upon myself, like, let’s correct the record. That’s fake news. But who did you support? Who did you wind up supporting? And he gave me a funny answer. It was none of your business who I voted for. And that just went everywhere. It got so many views. And then, of course, when I have an interaction like that, you have to be prepared. You get a reaction like that. Some people might shut down and let them go to the next person. I’m like, All right, I’m going to change gears. So I knew that that film had some issues connected to race relations. The funny part about this interview, a lot of times people don’t realize journalists on the red carpet in many instances don’t get to see the movie before the actual red carpet. You know, you’re just going by the materials you’ve got before the event and sometimes you haven’t seen the movie yet. So I knew, but it had some connections to race relations. So I asked him about how he thought race relations, if he thought they had improved under Obama, where he thinks we need to go in terms of that issue as a country. And he was saying that you can’t legislate love. You and I talking here, that’s how you get things done. So I thought that was another clip. So we used two separate clips one of him addressing the voting. Separate clip of what he said about not you know, you can’t legislate love. And that was another quote that’s been out there.

Roger Ream [00:17:02] That was a superb clip. I remember that when he says that to you. I think one of your many classic ones was with Samuel L. Jackson.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:17:10] Yes.

Roger Ream [00:17:10] Where you were asking him just about a tweet he’d sent out. What he’s going to move to Canada if Trump won? Is that what it was?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:17:17] So that was he was at the Library of Congress hosting. It was the Gershwin Prize where they give out an award to a popular songwriter. And it was Smokey Robinson, if I’m remembering correctly. And he was hosting the show and he came out, you know, posed for pictures. And he stood there and he was like, So that’s it. Anybody got anything else for me? And nobody was saying anything. So I said, I’m going to ask you about that tweet that he put out about he’s going to move out of the country if Trump gets elected. And I just asked him, hey, you know, given the election results, are you staying in the United States or are you leaving? I just kind of shouted that he wasn’t even that close to me. And he’s like when did I tweet that and he comes over to me and I had it ready on my phone and I showed him and I read it as I was showing him. And he gave me like a whole interview about how he was joking. And it was a follow up on something he said on a late night show. But there you go. I mean, I hooked him in, I got the answer. So I think, you know, that’s one of the things I’ve always done where sometimes somebody has to break the ice. I’ve been in so many circumstances where there’s a ton of journalists around and someone may not break the ice and they walk away and nobody gets anything. Somebody’s got to ask the first question. So I like doing that.

Roger Ream [00:18:33] Yeah. And it seems to me that your interview with Matt Damon I forgot what year that was, but that was almost made national news. Maybe it did make national news because it was on education, I think. And I think maybe his mother’s a teacher. But remind me of that story with Matt Damon and how that came about.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:18:53] Yeah, that one was 2011 and that one was picked up all over the place. Fox News, Huffington Post. I remember a lot of people picked it up because it was an education event with his mom was there who is in education she’s a teacher. And so he was there supporting her. But we were in the press tent and he’s just standing there. And I was like, I’m going to go over asking him questions. So I went over we were talking about at the time Congress was considering extending the Bush tax cut. And there was all the fiscal stuff going on. The Republican Congress wanted to cut spending. Obama was president. And so I asked him about that debate. And he was just saying, I don’t know anybody who went out and start a business with their Bush tax cut. And he was downplaying the need to on the GOP side, they were advocating for extending them, and he was downplaying that. So I think those clips there where he was saying also that it was, you know, it was wrong to have the wealthy, you know, not pay their fair share when poverty is increasing. And so he was just kind of going off on this topic. And so the mainstream media loved that interview. They were pulling clips from it, which I really I always tell the students at TFAS events, you know, the Internet really levels the playing field. You don’t have to be, you know, sitting in a chair one on one with someone like Matt Damon. You can really make news with the right question. And I knew because I had seen past interviews with him, he was passionate about politics. I’ve seen him talk about political issues in the past. So I knew asking those kind of questions would interest him and engage him. And that way I could speak with him and kind of get him to open up. So that was just another example of that.

Roger Ream [00:20:49] One more I want to ask you about is Richard Gere, because I think you’ve talked to him about human rights in China, and he’s been a great advocate for trying to call attention to the terrible human rights record, and especially as it impacts Tibet. But overall, I’ve been told by a member of the U.S. Senate, in fact, that Richard Gere has expressed the fact that since he started speaking out against China and their human rights record, he’s stopped getting movie roles. That films with him in it, get banned in China and therefore the major studios don’t want to put him in a film. Have you had a chance to talk to him about that or hear anything about that?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:21:34] I remember an interview with him where we talked about just China’s record on human rights because he’s testified before Congress a lot on that topic. And I remember it was when Obama was president, I was asked, you know, if he was satisfied with President Obama’s job performance in terms of policy toward China. And he gave me kind of his take at the time of how Obama was doing. But I think since then, I’ve talked to him once before. He was getting an award for his human rights advocacy by I think it was Freedom House, if I’m not mistaken. And he was gracious with his time before the ceremony and just talked about why he continues to speak out when it comes to China and their human rights violations. But it would be interesting if I can catch up with him again. I’m sure he’ll be back here at some point soon and ask him specifically about the censorship or that just China not playing his movies and how its impacted his career would be definitely an interesting topic to speak with him about.

Roger Ream [00:22:39] When you started out doing these types of interviews, fresh out of college and in Washington, did you have a high level of nervousness before you’d go up to some powerful Hollywood or Washington figure and throw barbs off or throw questions at them of various kinds that, you know, you asked them very politely and respectfully, but still. Was it a challenge initially, at least?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:23:03] I think the biggest challenge for me personally was, you know, making sure you’re prepared for every possible scenario. You don’t want to overprepare and kind of, you know, do too much legwork beforehand because then your mind may drift while they’re talking, thinking about, oh, I was thinking about this scenario and that scenario. I just prepare for a few scenarios. If I’m going to ask you about something that’s a really tough topic and a really hot issue, I always say to myself, Will that get them to shut down and not say anything? Then I walk away with nothing. Or do you start with something else? And then, you know, ask the really tough one. It depends on the situation. A lot of times you can be so prepared, but then when you get in the situation, you’re standing in front of the person. You got to make a decision on what you’re going to ask. And I just kind of assess the situation. I mean, I can go into a pretty in-depth, but a summary of it would just be you could show up and the person who’s handling the media says, all right, everybody together we’re doing a gaggle. And you’re like, okay, well, now I got to go for the best question right out of the gate. The trouble with that is everybody’s got their microphones in your shot so you can ask the best question. And then everybody I mean, that’s happened to me so many times and everybody runs with the answer to your question. And no one knows it was  your story and no one’s leaking back to you because they all got the answer. Happened to me last week, actually. And so I was at a roundtable and asked Kristi Noem, who’s an up and coming figure in the Republican Party, maybe a 2024, candidate asked her about the border and how it’s affecting her state. And there was a couple of other media outlets running with that answer, which is fine. A few of them linked back, which is good. But I think when it comes to somebody who’s new, fresh out of college, to your question, being prepared is really the key. And then when you’re in front of the person, you don’t be intimidated. They are people just like you and me either. You know, they’re got to get up. They brush their teeth like everybody else. I mean, my parents always said that to me growing up. And so it really stuck with me. I’m like, you know what, they are people like everybody else, but these are very important people making decisions that impact when it comes to these politicians, impact the entire country. So we try to get that all out of your head of who this person is and all the noise around them and just go for it. Like at least get the ball rolling, ask something and get them to open up and make sure you do your research and legwork beforehand.

Roger Ream [00:25:40] Does it surprise you sometimes that people will talk to you, especially when it’s not finding Matt Damon in a press room. Yes, but it looks like sometimes you catch like Bernie Sanders walking through the halls of Congress or down the street or, you know, AOC, you interviewed earlier this year just walking between the, you know, office building in the Capitol. And they know who you are, I mean, they know you’re a journalist, but, you know, affiliation or any suspicion. So they just will talk to anyone with who might be from the press.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:26:13] I’ve been in so many circumstances where it’s not just me walking. Like if you see on camera, it might look like it’s just me and the person. But there’s other journalists with me walking, trying to, you know, ask something. And I think if you’re the person, regardless of where you’re from, who you were before, if you’re the person asking the question, that will strike a chord with them. Either it’s something they’re passionate about, something in a bill that they were instrumental in getting added or something that you heard they might want to take out. You can get their attention with that question and they will go to you and answer it. Even if there is a crowd of people walking with them in like a group, you’ve got to be the one who asks something that you know will get them talking. Now, there have been scenarios I’ve been in where it may not be. It’s something they’ve never talked about or something. I don’t know if they’re ever going to want to comment on. But a lot of times you can get them to open up because it’s related in some way to maybe a vote they’re going to be taking soon. Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, a congressman. I’m able to talk to her a lot because I know as one of the leading progressives in Congress, she’s outspoken on so many issues. And if it’s an issue that she hasn’t really spoken much about, she’s probably got an opinion on it because it’s related to a bill she’s going to be voting on in the coming days. So just doing your preparation and your research and knowing, you know, what are the issues of the day and looking forward is another thing I like to do. Where could this lead? What’s the trend? Where is it trending, whether it’s like the Inflation Reduction Act they’re debating right now, you know, not just the bill as a whole going into the bill and looking at the specifics. The IRS, for example, they’re getting all this funding. They’re going to ahead with this funding. It could add up to 87,000 new IRS agents. Well, that’s a topic I can go up to Republican member of Congress, Kevin McCarthy, and ask him what he thinks about that topic. He’s going to open up about it because it’s something he’s spoken out about before, because this is something the administration has been pushing for for a long time. So, you know, that’s what I like to do. Move the ball forward, drive the conversation and try to look ahead.

Roger Ream [00:28:44] Now, let me ask you, speaking of looking ahead, that’s a good segue way. I wanted to ask you what you think the future of journalism is. We find that fewer students seem to be interested in careers in journalism, at least based on the enrollment in our journalism program. It’s trended down over the last five years. It may just be a short term trend, but it might reflect that young people don’t see journalism as a viable career. We’ve certainly seen a disruption of what is called journalism today. It’s everything from, you know, the network news to someone on Twitter reporting something. But do you think journalism has a strong future and we should be encouraging students to consider that as a career?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:29:26] I think so. I would encourage it. I believe that it’s changing rapidly in many ways. But at the same time, that’s an exciting thing. I mean, I look at it as an exciting opportunity because, you know, it’s moving fast, it’s developing. But that means new opportunities. I think. I was recently at a TFAS event where we were talking to students, and that question actually came up. I mean, they were there and I said, you know, pat yourselves in the back because you’re here and you’re getting real world experience. But they asked about the future, like when it comes to job security or when it comes to, you know, how long the current journalism model has. And I just said, look, it’s evolving and you guys are in a good position because you understand social media is a big part of it. You understand you know, all these platforms, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter. I mean, you know, unfortunately, a lot of people like the short sound bite and that’s it. But there are good amount of people that like the short sound bite, but they want to see more. They want the whole interview in context. So you could use the short clips as like a teaser for the longer form story or the longer form video. So I think, you know, young people today, they have a grasp on technology that’s moving so quickly, but they are on top of the trends and where things are going. And they understand those platforms better than some of the people who’ve been in the industry for a long time. So I think that’s something that young people can play up on. And also, when it comes to multimedia, you need someone who can work with video, who understands, you know, the audio, audio recording, having that go along with your story, not just a text. So I think there’s so many opportunities for young people today. The one thing I do worry about is I’ve always been, you know, just from being in D.C. doing national news, but the local news is so important in so many ways. Investigative journalism of your local government. I can’t tell you how many times I look at local news in the county I look at and I’m like, Nobody’s been reporting unless I look at the budget and what they’re doing. And I’m like, Nobody’s covering this. Nobody’s looking at this. That’s one area is worrisome. I think national news. You know, there’s always going to be so many opportunities there’s so many issues to cover and there’s so many different ways to cover them. But local news, they’re strapped when it comes to budgets. And and it’s a tough time.

Roger Ream [00:32:10] That’s exactly right. I know, too, from talking to journalists that the budgets for investigative journalism have been severely cut back because it is an expensive to put a reporter on a story that may take months to report on and get to the bottom of something. And it’s all, you know, just the Quick Hits they want now, not deep, deep investigative journalism. You had an experience early in your career. I’m not sure if it’s an internship or paid position, but at ABC News tonight. Did you overlap there with the person who’s probably one of our most well-known graduates of our journalism program, David Muir?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:32:47] Yeah, I did. Very talented. Yeah, he was the Weekend World News Tonight anchor at the time. He may have actually been the filling anchor at the time, but he was there and we actually connected because of TFAS I told him about TFAS when I saw and met him in the studio and we were chatting about his internship. His was actually with health and human services and look at him now he’s one of the top journalists in the country. So we talked about the experience and then he said, you know, let me know if you have any other questions. I actually did come back to him a couple of times and asked him about questions related to the industry and, you know, different things that I was wondering about how it would work. And he showed me around the studio and talked to me about packages he was working on. So it was really neat. And I actually ran into him before a State of the Union address a few years ago, and we chatted and he was like, Look at you, look at what you’re doing. And I said, Look at you. Now you’re this.

Roger Ream [00:33:50] He was kind enough to cut a video for us at our 50th anniversary dinner a few years ago. He surprised us he was on the set of ABC Evening News and he held up the recruitment brochure that he got when he was a student.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:34:06] No way.

Roger Ream [00:34:06]  He still had it that tracked him to our program. And he expressed his appreciation, like you did earlier, for having learned economics and how valuable that was as a journalist of have taken economics. So, good I’m glad you had some overlap there with him and have gotten a chance to talk to each other. What other advice would you have, you know, for young people in general, not just in journalism maybe, but, you know, we’re really trying to encourage our students every year to be courageous leaders and that it does take courage to, you know, put yourself out there in a profession, whether it’s journalism or public policy or whatever field you might be in, that, you know, we stress the importance of networking, of getting around, going to meet people and building a network of contacts of genuine friendships as well. But do you have any advice that you share with students in the summer that you could share today?

Nicholas Ballasy [00:35:07] Sure. I would say one of them in terms of the networking is following up. I think sometimes, you know, you send one email as a student to someone who you met at an event who said to reach out or someone that a contact of yours told you about. So you reach out to them and they you don’t feel like you want to bother them, so you drop it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve followed up with people. I still do it today with interview requests or requests about, you know, an opportunity, a media opportunity in D.C. You’ve got to follow up because people are getting so many emails in their inbox, especially journalists. You get press releases and so many things in their it gets lost in the shuffle or you read it and you had to move on to something else and forgot to reply. So the follow up is extremely important and that’s one thing. And then I also tell young people that, look, you shouldn’t be intimidated because of your age, or maybe you’re not as experienced as the other people at your internship because young people are making an impact in so many industries. And, you know, especially when it comes to technology and journalism, I mean, there’s so much technology involved in that, you know, like I was saying earlier, young people can really make an impact. So don’t feel intimidated. You know, if you really believe in something too, like if this is if you know, you want to do, you know, broadcast or you know you want to write. But at the same time, you want make sure that you work at a radio station and write too. You can stick with, you know, whatever your vision is. You should stick with that and follow it, you know, and don’t be intimidated, if you get some advice from somebody else, this is all you know, that’s not going to work out for you or oh, that’s not what you should be doing. You should do this. And then maybe you can get another opportunity, you know, through that, you know, experience. And you’re like, No, I won’t. You should stick with your vision and don’t doubt yourself just because you’re young.

Roger Ream [00:37:12] Oh, that’s very, very good advice that you share with us today and that I know you share with our students during the summer. So thank you so much and thanks for sharing your story with us today Nick. The conversation has been fascinating and the work you’ve done over your career has also been great. And I’m sure if people put your name into their web browser and touch that video button, they’ll find some of it and they can watch it online. And we’ve shared a little today. So thanks very much for being with me. I appreciate it.

Nicholas Ballasy [00:37:43] No problem. Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Roger Ream [00:37:46] Thank you for listening to the Liberty and Leadership podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe. Download liked or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like this episode, I ask you to rate and review it. And if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at the podcast at TFAS@podcast.org. The Liberty and Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal Studios in Washington, DC. 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 46,000 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.

Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.

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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