Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Peter Hamby (C’03), Host of “Good Luck America” at Snapchat

Hamby joined Snap as Head of News from CNN in 2015. He is the host of Snapchat’s flagship weekly news show, Good Luck America, which covers the wild state of American politics under President Donald Trump.

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

I had covered the 2008 presidential race as an “embed” for CNN, which was my first experience covering big-time politics. It was a huge springboard for me. But that wasn’t my break. As part of that campaign, I lived in South Carolina during the primaries for six months or so, which allowed me to meet everyone that worked in politics in the state, from the interns to the campaign managers to the state legislators. Fast forward to a year later: South Carolina was engulfed in national scandal when the governor at the time, Mark Sanford, “disappeared” for several days. Turns out, he had been in Argentina visiting his mistress. CNN sent me down to the state to cover it, and because I had sources in every corner of the state, I broke story after story after story. It was like getting hot from the three-point line in a big game. I couldn’t miss. It coincided with the arrival of Twitter on the political scene, so I quickly made a name for myself among political junkies and journalists who were following every development. It seems quaint now, but Twitter allowed scores of great young political journalists to make a name for themselves online without having to wait in line at their companies and defer to the traditional way up the professional ladder — traditionally a very slow burn at a TV network like CNN.

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

The most challenging part of my job at Snapchat is also the most rewarding: Thinking constantly about how to create and present serious news content to a young audience that’s disconnected from the traditional news ecosystem that the rest of the media occupies. With my show Good Luck America, I’m able to reach millions of people, the majority of them under 30, with substance. Cable news is consumed by shouting matches and gossip, but we are covering issues like manufacturing, immigration and climate change while also trying to do something simple but actually revolutionary in the news business these days: Listen to people instead of talk at them.

What is a current project you are working on that you are excited about?

Broadly speaking, we are incredibly excited about our commitment to serious, credible news content — all of them unique to Snapchat. With Our Stories, we provide an immersive glimpse into events like Hurricane Harvey or the Las Vegas Shooting, using footage created by Snapchatters on the ground. Publishers like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Economist are creating daily editions on Snapchat. And with shows like Good Luck America and NBC’s Stay Tuned, we are thinking about how to create a menu of premium news programming for an audience that gets news from their phones, not television.

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

Georgetown taught me how to write and think critically, and skeptically. I majored in English, which is essentially the process of reading a text, analyzing it, asking questions and then rendering a verdict. Turns out, that’s also how journalism works.

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

First, you could work be in TV, radio, digital, print — if you don’t know how to write, you won’t succeed in media. Second, find a passion and own it. Mine was politics. We live in a moment where generalists are fading in journalism, beyond a handful of TV morning show anchors. If you are an expert in one thing — high school basketball, labor law, agriculture, whatever — you will have your moment. The moment will find you.

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

Eyeballs are leaving television and moving to mobile. TV viewing among people under the age of 30 has fallen 50% since 2010. The only people watching more television today than they were five years ago are all over the age of 60. TV viewership isn’t declining because of NFL protests or partisanship or bad programming or whatever buzzy explanation rules the day — viewership is down because people’s habits are fundamentally changing. We get content in short bursts on our phones. That’s where the future is. The only growth sector in media is on mobile. Time spent on mobile screens doubled between 2012 and 2016. People are spending almost 6 hours a day on their phones today. Meanwhile, 18-24 year olds spend more time consuming media on their phones than any other medium. Almost 20 minutes a day – more than TV.

Best Business Advice Received:

One of my pals at CNN, Mark Preston, told me a long time ago: “When everyone else is zigging, you zag.” Look at where the pack is going, and don’t be afraid to step out in the other direction. This is especially true in Washington, where people are wrong all the damn time.

Trait You Most Admire in People:


Favorite Social Platform, App or Website:


Favorite Georgetown Professor:

Edward Ingebretsen in the English Department. He taught a class called American Gothic about the darker undercurrents of our society, our media and our literature. I took it during the semester of 9/11, and it became an incredibly valuable prism through which we viewed the advent of terrorism and our patriotic, unquestioning march into Iraq and Afghanistan.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

There used to be a divey but great French bistro called Au Pied du Cochon on Wisconsin Avenue, which is now that Five Guys. I went there with my dad when I was little, and when I went to college it was great because they were open 24 hours and had incredible french fries. It was an emblem of a Georgetown that was more quaint and parochial than it is today.

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

Working for The Georgetown Voice. Every second of it. I was the Sports Editor but I also wrote a ton of crappy music reviews and self-indulgent essays. I got so many free CDs out of that gig. Remember CDs? This interview is making me feel old.