Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Karen Travers (C’00, G’03), White House Correspondent at ABC News

Karen Travers is a White House correspondent for ABC News, reporting for ABC News Audio, ABC NewsOne, the network’s television affiliate service, and ABC News Live, the network’s streaming service. She serves on the board of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

I’m going to give two different answers for this. My first “big break” was getting my internship at ABC News during my second semester of my senior year. I had worked on Capitol Hill for two years for a Member of Congress and planned to work for him after graduation. But I had a bug for journalism because of my experience at The Hoya (I was the editor in chief my junior year). So I thought I would apply for a journalism internship during my final semester just to see how I liked it. I only applied to ABC News. I admired Cokie Roberts after meeting her at an event on the Hill and talking to her about her work. I connected with a producer on her show, Avery Miller, and was hired as an intern in January 2000. Within a week I realized this is what I wanted to do and worked hard so they would consider keeping me on after graduation. I started at ABC News in July 2000 and here I am – I never left.

The most significant experience I have had at ABC was being selected as a “campaign embed” in 2004. I was assigned to cover the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign and to travel with the Vice President. It was an experience of a lifetime. I traveled across the entire country on Air Force Two and saw America up close. I learned so much that year – how to report and how to live out of a suitcase for all kinds of weather. After Bush won, I moved into the ABC White House team as a producer and that set me on the path I’m still on today.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part of the job is the incredible opportunity to have a front row seat to history. I have been able to ask questions of the last 3 presidents and the current president and get answers that I hope are important to Americans.

I have traveled to more than 60 countries and 49 states (Vermont is the only one missing from my list!) and get to meet people from all walks of life and learn their stories. It is inspiring to talk to people who have waited hours to attend a campaign rally and hear what motivates them to back a particular candidate. I love talking to people on the street or at a restaurant while traveling overseas with a President. They are so excited to talk about the US and I enjoy hearing their opinions and perceptions.

The most challenging part of the job is trying to achieve a semblance of work/life balance and feeling like you are never caught up. I always worry about what I didn’t read, what questions I didn’t ask or angle I didn’t consider. I hope that means I am giving it my all every day but it is overwhelming when the news is non-stop. I covered every day of the Trump Administration and I don’t think I will fully appreciate for awhile just how insanely busy it was and how much hard work we did, going at 150 mph for four straight years.

What is something current you are working on that you are excited about?

I am very excited to cover my 4th presidency for ABC News. I’m excited to work with our new team that will be reporting from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue every day and getting to mentor our younger producers who are covering their first president.

The early days of the Biden Administration have been a flurry of activity-executive action every day, the return of press briefings and policy conference calls. I don’t think the pace will be what it was during the Trump Administration just because of the nature of how this president communicates but we are in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis so we are going to be very busy for the foreseeable future.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

Georgetown encourages its students to think about the world beyond the Hilltop. We are told to apply for internships, attend political events and explore everything Washington has to offer. We have such an advantage living in the nation’s capital. Students from all over the world come here for a summer internship and try and cram all their networking and learning experience into just a couple of weeks. Hoyas can do that all year and my professors really encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunities that could lead to a career (and were patient if my intense internship schedule meant I need just a little bit more time on a paper).

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

Work hard and raise your hand for any assignment no matter how tedious it may sound because that could be the assignment that catches the eye of a boss. Be patient. You are not going to zoom up the ladder but treat each job as a learning opportunity where you get everything out of it that you can while having an eye on what you want to do next.

Find a mentor who can help you learn the landscape of your organization and give advice on how to navigate it. I have benefitted immensely from the brilliant, kind and brutally honest women (Cokie, Martha Raddatz, Ann Compton) who have guided me through every stage of my career and life (especially parenting).

And always be kind – you never know who you will end up working for and with later in your career. Especially if it’s a career in Washington – this is a very small town!

How is the ever-changing media landscape affecting your industry?

There is no such thing as “just a TV reporter” or “just a newspaper reporter” – everyone is doing everything. On a normal day I am filing for the 200 ABC TV stations across the country, ABC News Audio (radio stations and podcasts), and ABC News Live (our 24 hour digital platform). My reporting also appears in articles on Everyone in news has to juggle multiple platforms and know how to report in a way that fits each unique audience. It’s exciting

Best Business Advice Received:

If you don’t know the answer, ask for help. Nobody will fault you for raising your hand – but you will be in trouble if you fail to ask for help and it hurts the team effort. Journalism is collaborative and we succeed and fail as a team.

Trait You Most Admire in People:

Compassion. Everyone has a story or struggle that we may not see. (Runner up- the ability to not take yourself too seriously no matter how fancy a title you have.)

Favorite App, Website, Podcast or Social Platform (other than related to your own company):

App: Evernote (I am a list person. This app helps me stay organized – make to do lists, upload images. I have no excuse for forgetting something!)

Website: Classical WETA 90.9 FM online – a new WFH habit is listening to classical music while I work. Soothing and not distracting

Podcast: Forever35

Social Platform: Twitter (I cant stay away)

Favorite Georgetown Professor:

Michael Bailey in the Government Department. I took one of his American politics classes and worked on an independent research project with him and learned so much. He sparked my interest in congressional and presidential politics.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

The Tombs. It’s the place I would ask my parents to take me when they came to visit and where I ordered take out after I delivered our first child at Georgetown University Hospital. It’s funny to go there as an adult living in DC because I fully expect my friends from the class of 2000 to be sitting at their regular seats at the bar.

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

Late nights in the Leavey Center scrambling to get The Hoya to the printer. I didn’t realize at the time how much I was learning in that student newsroom that would come in handy later in my career in journalism. I also made lifelong friends who went on to do amazing things outside of journalism but still keep me on my toes by sending me questions for the White House and news tips.