College of Media | News

NPR Congressional Correspondent Andrea Seabrook Speaks at the College of Media

Joe Nocco
4/13/2012  8:00 am

NPR Congressional Correspondent Andrea Seabrook gave University of Illinois students and faculty insights into the inner workings of Congress as well as practical advice for breaking into professional journalism in an April 11 talk in Gregory Hall. 


Seabrook, who started at NPR in 1998 as an editorial assistant, has covered Capitol Hill since 2003, explaining trends in legislation and politics.  


Seabrook received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Earlham College in Indiana and studied Latin American literature at UNAM-La Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. She began her career in media at Earlham by working for WECI, the college’s student-run radio station.  


While a temp for NPR’s music program, The Anthem, Seabrook contacted NPR’s Mexico Bureau, where she worked as a producer and translator providing coverage for Mexico and Central America.  Following a short stint in Arizona, she returned  to Washington to cover the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  She was eventually hired as a full-time employee.    


Seabrook focused her discussion on her current position as one of three NPR reporters covering “The Hill.” Seabrook said she tries to cover Congress in an “ambient way” as compared to her colleagues’ more straightforward approach.  


Seabrook noted that there are aspects of our federal government that are “broken,” leading to the afternoon’s first question: What isn’t broken in Washington? Seabrook explained that although the list is short, some aspects work well.  Thanks to the Internet, for example, citizens can easily reach their representatives. 


“Lawmakers are fairly accessible,” Seabrook said.  “You can still write to your lawmaker.  Many of them tweet.  You can direct tweet them, you can follow their leads, and you can find them on Facebook.  So there is some communication.”


But she said citizens might be surprised by how members of Congress spend much of their days. 


“Your average member of Congress, spends two to three hours a day on the phone asking people for money or at fundraisers, breakfast, lunch, cocktails, dinner, night cap,” Seabrook said.  “All different fundraisers in Washington.”


Seabrook has recently worked on a report for This American Life, a public radio show produced by Chicago Public Radio, about the relationship between lobbyists and lawmakers. 


While most of her talk pertained to politics, Seabrook offered students some general journalistic advice.  She explained that talking about journalism was not enough.  Actually getting out there and writing is what will land a job.  She put it in the simplest words possible.


“You get in by just doing,” Seabrook said.  “Journalism is the best job you can possibly have, I’ll tell you that.”