Washington Examiner, Reporter and Journalist
At 23 years old, Sarah Westwood is already a respected reporter with a strong reputation for producing top-notch work.
Just two years after graduating from Young America’s Foundation’s National Journalism Center (NJC) she is responsible for breaking a number of critical stories on important policy issues as a watchdog reporter at the Washington Examiner. Sarah is also a regular voice on high- profile cable news programs.
Despite her youth, she speaks with the wisdom of a veteran journalist, answering questions about her trade in a way that underscores the responsibility she feels to expose government abuse.
“A good journalist is not always chasing whatever is going to get them the most clicks or a link on Drudge Report,” Westwood explains. “Good journalists stick to traditional methods of reporting on and advancing stories whenever time permits, which is not always easy given the pace of most newsrooms, but it is important.”
Many Beltway journalists are known for their self- promotional attitudes. Not Westwood. Her motivations remain genuine.
Asked to name her proudest achievement as a professional journalist, she notes, “Anytime one of my stories can encourage some action or reform, that is a good thing. With watchdog reporting, we try to focus on waste, fraud, and abuse in the government. Drawing attention to all that, even in such a small way, helps hold officials accountable for their actions.”
The NJC alumna clearly has great enthusiasm for reporting, particularly the pursuit of investigative journalism.
“Watchdog reporting is among the most important types of reporting, but it is done too little,” she notes. “It can be time-consuming and often has nothing to do with the current news cycle, so the challenge is finding a way to make stories about corruption relevant to readers who might be focused on other issues.”
Today, Westwood regularly returns to the National Journalism Center to mentor current interns—many of whom are only one year younger. Her advice to those college conservatives interested in pursuing careers in journalism?
“Create value for yourself. Anyone can churn out content, but fewer and fewer journalists can come up with unique story ideas or pursue original reporting. If you are able to make yourself valuable to a news outlet by providing it with stories no one else has, you can be successful.”
With a dose of optimism uncommon in the often-pessimistic world of journalism, Westwood explained why she believes the moment is ripe for young people to enter the field, commenting, “It’s a great time to be young and working in news. All the old rules of politics and media were just broken…”
When asked to name the writers who have most influenced her, Westwood remains humble, remarking, “I don’t even pretend to be in the same league as these people, but many conservative journalists will probably tell you they read and admire Charles Krauthammer’s weekly column. I also enjoy reading Donovan Slack, who reports on the Department of Veterans Affairs (among other topics) for USA Today, Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, and Nick Confessore of the New York Times. They are all very good storytellers, which is just as important as being good reporters.”
She named NJC alumus Tim Carney as a mentor as well, referring to her colleague at the Washington Examiner as “an enormous help.”
Reflecting on her participation in the National Journalism Center, Westwood recalls, “I became involved with NJC my senior year of college. I was applying to every journalism internship I could find hoping to get some newsroom experience before I finished school.” Upon acceptance into NJC, Westwood was placed at the Washington Examiner for her 12-week internship.
Westwood says her NJC experience dramatically impacted her, and she continues to benefit from her involvement in the program. “I made some incredible friends in NJC who are still a big part of my life,” she notes. “But beyond that, NJC exposed me to so many different kinds of reporters and types of journalism that I may never have gotten to encounter otherwise. We learned about local broadcast journalism, data-driven journalism, video journalism—and all from people who were really engaged with us interns and who were committed to helping us learn new skills.”
Westwood’s rapid rise to the top of the conservative media sphere underscores the importance of reaching and inspiring young conservatives. We hope every student who participates in Young America’s Foundation’s programs will catapult into successful careers as seamlessly as she did.
“Being a graduate of NJC instantly connects me with so many people working in media,” she says. “The program creates a network of talented people who genuinely want to help each other succeed, which is a great thing to be a part of in such a competitive industry.”
Sarah Westwood exemplifies that spirit as well as anyone.