Alumna Reports From Political Trenches at CNN

Alumna Reports From Political Trenches at CNN

With all eyes on the media throughout 2016’s tumultuous presidential election, Honors College alumna Caroline Kenny ‘15 proved up for the challenge.

Rather than just dipping her toes in, Kenny dove head-first into the chaotic election coverage as a digital producer for CNN Politics in Washington.

Caroline Kenny reports from outside the White House.

Caroline Kenny reports from outside the White House. (Photo provided by Kenny)

Born and raised on Long Island, Kenny traded in biting New York winters for some South Carolina sunshine and Charleston charm to enroll in the Honors College.

“The staff seemed like they really wanted me to be there,” she says. “Plus, the opportunities they offered were extremely hard to pass up.”

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Beginning her journey as a communication and business double major, it only took one semester for Kenny to realize that business wasn’t the right fit for her.

“I came back to campus spring semester ready to explore something new, and it just so happened that the 2012 GOP South Carolina primary was dominating the news in Charleston,” she says.

Kenny immersed herself in politics. She attended a rally with Stephen Colbert and former presidential candidate Herman Cain in Cistern Yard, heard former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas speak in the Stern Center Garden and attended a Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum.

“That crazy week in Charleston,” she says. “I realized how exciting the world of politics is, so I declared a second major in political science.”

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Kenny made sure to seize every opportunity presented to her during her time at the College. From interning at New York City public relations agencies to the Democratic National Committee in Washington, she found herself repeatedly circling back to her interest in journalism.

“I combined what I enjoyed about each of those experiences — news, big time politics, television, traveling – and realized I could really enjoy a career in political journalism,” Kenny says.

Kenny interviews Rep. Peter King (R-New York) at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016. (Photo provided by Kenny)

Following graduation, Kenny pursued her passion as a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where she received a master’s of science degree in journalism.

“My experience at Northwestern was amazing,” she says. “I learned more in those 12 months than I ever could have imagined and was able to really learn first-hand by reporting for actual news organizations in real time.”

After leaving CofC, Kenny continued to capitalize on her opportunities — an inclination she says helped her land her job at CNN. As a graduate student, she dabbled in both print and broadcast journalism and had the opportunity to travel across the country as she covered the 2016 presidential election.

Bookended by both major parties’ conventions and the start of the general election, Kenny hit the ground running as a digital producer for CNN Politics following her graduation from Medill in August 2016.

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“There is a constant stream of news and it takes a lot of work from everyone at the organization — from correspondents to producers to designers to photographers and everyone in — to make sure the news we put out is accurate, fair, thorough and of course, timely,” she says.

Writing and reporting for CNN Politics, though, is only a fraction of Kenny’s involvement with the media giant. As a digital producer, her efforts are directed at optimizing content and making the news accessible to the public through the web. From tracking clicks on CNNPolitics.com to live-clipping events and posting stories via social media, Kenny’s days are far from dull.

Perhaps one of her most exhilarating, though, came on election night 2016.

Their DC newsroom overflowing with CNN Politics staff, Kenny and her team watched votes pour in with the rest of the world.

“All of us were reporting in real time, not knowing the outcome, so it was so exciting to see this giant news operation at work,” she says.

kenny, center right, appears with other panelists at the College's Ballots and Brunch election review on Nov. 19, 2016. (Photo by Reese Moore)

Kenny, center right, appears with other panelists at the College’s Ballots and Brunch election review on Nov. 19, 2016. (Photo by Reese Moore)

Now that the results are in and a new administration is in the White House, Kenny has settled into her new role and is living an aspiring journalist’s dream.

“I’ve learned so much in just a few months and can’t wait to see what covering this administration will be like,” she says.

To others who may share this ultimate goal, Kenny emphasizes the importance of internships and forging professional connections early on.

“I interned ever since the moment I stepped foot on the CofC campus my freshman year and I know that every single experience I had helped me get to where I am today,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to try new things, but always give it your all and work hard. It will definitely pay off.”

Featured image provided by CNN.


Chloe Field is a senior from Pittsburgh studying communication and political science in the Honors College at the College of Charleston. She is also a writing consultant at the Center for Student Learning.