Wheaton alum ranked among top 50 state political reporters

Ted Nesi ’07 recently joined Wheaton’s English Department to teach ENG 285: Journalism. What is someone who majored in Political Science doing in the English Department, you may ask? Well, Nesi is certainly qualified; he is a reporter for WPRI, a news station in Rhode Island. While anyone not hailing from Rhode Island might not recognize this station name, a name you should recognize is The Washington Post. An article The Post published in late January listed the top 50 state reporters in the country. On this list: our very own Ted Nesi.

Nesi wasn’t always a Lyon. He started his undergraduate career at Boston University (BU). His mother passed away three weeks before his first day of freshman year, but he hoped that the transition to college would help him deal with the loss. He mentioned that, “BU was just too massive and impersonal, especially with everything else I was going through, and I just wasn’t very happy there.”

How did he end up at Wheaton then? Well, one of his best friends (Amanda Nelson ’07) was studying at Wheaton at the time, and she encouraged him to look into the possibility of transferring for sophomore year. Nesi was accepted, and noted, “Amanda was right. I loved Wheaton, and the college really salvaged my college experience during a very tough time in my life. I’ll always be so grateful for that.”

Nesi described Wheaton as a “picture postcard of a bucolic New England campus,” and “an encouraging, stimulating place.” He noted that Wheaton brought out the best in him, and that three of his Wheaton experiences in particular helped shaped his career as a political journalist.

He started off writing for The Wheaton Wire, and ended up as News Editor. He credits working with the small staff to helping him, “learn some of the basics of journalism and get more confident [that] I wanted to do that as a career.” He also studied abroad, spending his fall semester junior year in London. “I loved the British press – their newspapers were so much more punchy and lively than American ones. And I got to take a journalism class there with a BBC correspondent, who told great stories about being in the news business.” Nesi remarked that studying abroad in London “cemented” his choice to be a journalist. He mentioned that another strong influence in shaping his journalistic career was writing his thesis senior year. “I wrote about Ted Kennedy and his time in the Senate, and undertaking such a big project and doing so much writing really boosted my confidence before I left Wheaton for the real world.”

What is Nesi’s favorite type of story to cover? Election nights. “There’s the human drama of watching the candidates react to the outcome – the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, all that. It’s just a huge adrenaline rush.” While many journalists head to large places like Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York City, etc., Nesi still finds politics in New England interesting. He mentioned, “in a small state like Rhode Island, you have the chance to get really up close and personal with politicians, which is great. I have to think that’s much harder in a huge place like California.” More on politics in New England, he also said, “Last November, the Republicans won a crushing victory from coast to coast – except in Rhode Island, where they were just demolished by the Democrats. Why is that? What drives that kind of difference?”

Nesi finds political science “endlessly fascinating,” noting, “the Sept. 11 attacks … really shaped my worldview. It made me realize how much ‘the news’ mattered, and how important it is that journalists seek out the important stories and get them right.” This fascination Nesi developed at age 17 didn’t stop there. Concerning his job, he said, “You can never get bored being a reporter. You’re paid to be curious and to learn about things and to ask impertinent questions.”

Although being a reporter is rewarding, it’s certainly not one of the easiest jobs in the world. Nesi commented on the chaotic nature of journalism, “especially now with social media driving the 24/7 news cycle – it can be hard to keep up with everything going on while not losing your mind and trying to stay judicious.” He is very happy about being named one of the top 50 political reporters, commenting, “I really appreciate that they put me on the list. Hopefully I’ll live up to it.” Nesi also remarked that he thinks “state and local reporting is just as important as national and international reporting,” and that he’s proud to be doing it.

What does he recommend for students who are interested in journalism? “Read, read, read, then read some more.” He mentioned that it’s a great time to be starting out, “almost all the great reporting being done all over the globe is available for free or nearly for free to anyone who wants to read it. That’s amazing.” Another tip: “training yourself to be skeptical even about things you feel fairly certain about. It’s a habit of mind you have to develop, questioning your own certainties. A good reporter gets surprised.”

Nesi is teaching all this and more to the students in his Journalism class, whom he said are “really engaged and bright.” Although it’s a lot of work, he looks forward to it, “even in the snow.”