In this interview, we speak with former IWP student Jason Racki, who is currently working as the Midwest Producer for Fox Business Network.
How did you become interested in journalism/broadcast journalism?
From a young age, I’d always had a keen interest in politics and international affairs. Growing up in the 1980s, watching the nation’s fight against communism, momentous political campaigns, President Ronald Reagan negotiate nuclear arms treaties, and the implementation of new economic programs, I realized I wanted to one day witness important events first-hand. As television in the late 1980s and early 1990s also started to demonstrate its capability and power, it became evident television would be the medium of most influence in people’s lives.
What attracted you to IWP?
Long before enrolling in IWP, I had spent significant time abroad for studies, travel and work. For example, around that time, I’d produced coverage on the Argentine financial crisis, crime in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, the Vladimiro Montesinos case in Peru, the expansion of the Panama Canal, and migrant crossings into the U.S. from Mexico. All of these were challenging, satisfying, and occasionally hair-raising projects. However, the chance to study world events, history, and national security from the perspective of former government officials, scholars, and other policy practitioners was something that reporting from the dusty, destitute slums of Lima could not provide. I desired the insights — and academic rigor — that went with advanced studies. I believe each experience complemented the other.
What was the most interesting thing you have learned at IWP? Or, did you write any papers or take a class that you particularly enjoyed?
While there were many, I recall the discussions we had in a class on ethics during the steady build-up to the second Iraq War. Pre-emption was a new and controversial policy at the time. There were few people, other than faculty at IWP, who were looking back through history and turning to the writings of timeless thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas to examine the pending war. We shed the hyperbole seen daily in the media and instead referred to ethicists and their arguments — then applied them to events happening before us. Those were worthy discussions.
Did studying at IWP change your thoughts about international affairs or national security?
Studying at IWP helped underpin my views academically – and later even inspired me to seek opportunities to serve the nation. In fact, after a few semesters, I made an attempt to enter the intelligence community as an analyst. Sadly, I never reached those exclusive ranks, so I redoubled my efforts in the field of journalism. Today, I continue to do my fact-seeking and analysis for public audiences, rather than the government.
Did your studies at IWP impact how you approached your profession?
For me, a significant takeaway was listening to the first-hand experiences of others: the dogged intelligence analyst, the loyal ambassador, the gutsy scholar, the fearless anti-Communist leader. Their stories showed not just a dedication to cause, but also a deep integrity in their work. Integrity has been fundamental to how I approach my career. Meeting — and learning from — these folks not only reinforced in me this principle, I hoped one day others might think of me as a journalist in the same way.
What do you feel are the most impactful actions/decisions you have made so far in your career?
Moving to Washington was key. Prior to living in the nation’s capital, I worked as a reporter and photographer at two NBC affiliates — one in Mississippi, and another in Tennessee. The work was fast-paced, and I learned many lessons from the seasoned veterans at WLBT in Jackson, Miss. However, one thing became increasingly clear: The coverage of murders, fires, and car accidents would never feed into a network career focused on politics and international affairs. In local television, you make jumps from smaller cities to larger ones, often covering the same type of news. But if you want to cover national politics, you must go to Washington. If you want to work for a network, drive the moving van to either New York or Washington. The years in the south proved very helpful in landing work at a network, but I would never have joined the Washington press corps when I did — nor traveled around the globe as a journalist — had I remained in local news.
What is a piece of advice you would give to IWP students who aspire to your field of work?
It is important to learn the mechanics of television and its technology. This is a must. But in addition, and perhaps more importantly, read everything. Study. Meet people — lots of people. Become an expert in a field. These days, countless reporters can deliver a live report; distinguish yourself by bringing something more to the table. Don’t succumb to groupthink. Publish. And finally, be ready to work hard. News is not a 9 to 5 job.