A short commute from the Logan Circle neighborhood Elise Viebeck calls home, is a shiny new Washington Post office building— where the 27-year-old National Enterprise Reporter sits in a state-of-the-art newsroom and bounces ideas off her colleagues.
Just last year, she landed a job at the Post, a fitting position for the former House Page who spent most of her summers working and interning in some of Washington’s most powerful institutions.
Elise Viebeck, 27, National Enterprise Reporter
On Being The Perfect Place to Grow
“I feel lucky to be here,” says Viebeck.
“The Post embraces what younger reporters bring to the table: energy, versatility, and new ways of thinking. Editors encourage creativity and give us room to pitch ideas outside of our day-to-day areas of coverage.”
“The environment is collaborative. Younger reporters can observe and learn from veterans. And best of all, the people are interesting, down-to-earth, and collegial. They’re willing to share their knowledge, and among the staff you’ll find experts in everything, related and unrelated to their beats.”
On Landing the Job
In 2009, Taylor Rees Shapiro showed up to his Washington Post interview wearing a suit, tie, and French cuffs. “I fetched coffee for the first year,” says Shapiro.
“My then boss told me the hours were between 6 am and 5 pm, five days a week, doing mostly grunt work, and I jumped at the chance knowing that at least I’d have my foot in the door.”
The 28-year-old education reporter must have known then what he believes now, that “The Washington Post is not a good place to launch your career, it’s a good place to make your career.”
“There’s a distinction,” he says.
“I don’t take for granted that this place is filled with the best journalists in the business. We’re talking about investigative journalists with multiple Pulitzer prizes on their mantle; veteran war-zone correspondents; and sage political reporters.”
Taylor isn’t one to shy away from hard work, and at the Post, that type of stamina is something they expect from their journalists and support staff.
“I volunteered to work six and sometimes seven days a week. My longest stretch was 21 days in a row showing up for work at the Post.”
On Work-Life Balance
Taylor Shapiro regularly leans on his wife for support.”I’m fortunate to be married to a wife who not only understands that my work can have an unpredictable schedule but also appreciates the power of journalism,” he says.
“The stories we write can alter the course of people’s lives. It’s hard, difficult work to perform the in-depth, on-the-ground reporting that can have that kind of impact.”
“There’s no easy way to talk to a mother whose son was gunned down in his neighborhood; to interview a father whose daughter hung herself from a train trestle; to speak with a guy in his 20s still recovering from the physical and mental wounds he suffered from the four bullets that hit him in a high school shooting.
As journalists, we earn the trust of our sources by listening respectfully and describing their portrayal with integrity. It’s our duty to do it justice on their behalf.”
“When I’m not on the road, I dedicate myself to my family. One of my favorite weekend activities is taking a long walk together to enjoy the great outdoors on a sunny day.”
Jonnelle Marte is a writer for The Washington Post’s personal finance site Get There.
“I think I was hired because I have a genuine curiosity in the hidden ways money shapes our lives,” says Marte.
“The internet never sleeps, so writing for the web can be a 24/7 job; but that also means I often have the flexibility to move my schedule around if something comes up.”
“Every day can be different but I’m always able to make time for what I need — working out, volunteering, or visiting my family in New York, Miami, and elsewhere. I take a lot of weekend trips.”
Which goes to show that these young journalists wouldn’t be able to work at the level they do without the support of their family and friends.
On Learning Real Lessons
Launching her career at the Post in her early twenties, 24-year-old Angela Wong has had to overcome a mean case of imposter syndrome.
“The best advice I’ve heard is if you’re given a bucket of luck, you have time to turn it into a bucket of skill. I’ve lived by those words to work harder and learn as much as possible.”
Angela Wong, 24, Product Analyst: Personalization and Big Data
After 2 1/2 years on the job, Wong is grateful to be where she is. “I am very fortunate to be where I am thanks to the people who took a chance on me. But I also need to recognize that they saw something in me and I’ve worked extremely hard to get here.”
“Ben Bradlee’s words are for the ages: ‘Nose down, ass up and moving steadily forward into the future’.”
Here are a few more lessons she’s learned:
//If you want to get your hands dirty and learn as much as possible, you can. Step up and show up. It builds you a reputation for being very hands-on and eager to be a team player.
//No one says no to coffee. Meet people across the company to understand how things work as a whole. Information really is power and will help you more than you may think.
//When you get to a roadblock or a hard “no,” don’t mull over the dead end. Be that person who offers alternatives; they may be better than Plan A.
//Just because that’s the way it’s always been, doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be. You have to know when to push.
Photography by Veronica Sequeira