Political Communication alumna Shawna Thomas recently received a career promotion that required her to relocate. The move? About 15 blocks northwest up Pennsylvania Avenue. After spending almost two years as Capitol Hill Producer for NBC News, Thomas has been promoted to White House Producer for the network.
Thomas (B.A. ’02) first developed a passion for the study and art of political communication during her time in high school and immediately identified The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs as a perfect fit for her undergraduate studies. Why SMPA? She loved its location in the heart of Washington, D.C. and was intrigued by the unique major of Political Communication, which afforded her the opportunity to gain practical experience while studying the history and theory of the field.
“As a student, you want to go where the internships are, and ultimately, were the jobs will be. The location of the School of Media and Public Affairs gives its students numerous opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the city,” said Thomas.
While at GW, Thomas interned with Fox News in 2001, allowing her to combine knowledge gained in her theory classes with practical application. Thomas, however, still had her sights set on a position as a campaign secretary after graduation.
She worked for a number of years in the lobbying industry at a job found through networking with a SMPA professor, leaving to earn a Master's degree in Broadcast Journalism at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism. After graduating, Thomas found herself back in television, this time working on the NBC News political desk during the 2008 presidential campaign. Her work during that campaign earned her an Emmy that year, and her efforts during the 2010 elections garnered Thomas a second Emmy nomination.
As she progressed up the ladder at NBC, Thomas found that working in television truly fulfilled her. “I got to spend time with the issues, studying them, distilling them, and sharing them. In a lot of ways, it was like going back to school, only without the tests,” jokes Thomas.
Thomas brings a unique perspective to her new position with NBC News, covering the Obama presidency after covering the Republican takeover of Capitol Hill. After observing the Congressional side of D.C. politics just a few months ago, she is now following the other side of the political fight that will play out during the 2012 election. Her new viewpoint has shown her at least one big difference between covering Congress and covering the White House.
"There are over 400 members of Congress, but only one president, so the focus on him is much more intense,” says Thomas. “Everything the president does is news.”
This network news maven encouraged current students to learn as much as possible, both conceptually and practically, to become marketable once job hunting.
“Increasingly, the 24/7 news cycle, coupled with networks producing news on multiple platforms, means new journalists must be able to write, shoot footage, and edit their own material,” says Thomas. “Journalists today wear many hats,” she explains. Thomas certainly seems to wears these hats very well.