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Kate Nocera ’01 Talks with Journalism Students

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Kate Nocera '01 skyped into the Journalism class.

Kate Nocera '01 skyped into the Journalism class.

Kate Snyder

Kate Snyder

Kate Nocera '01 skyped into the Journalism class.

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When Kate Nocera, ’01 graduated with Cum Laude honors, former administrator Jeff Pilgrim, ’81 told her he was amazed it had happened. Looking back on that moment in front of Williston’s Journalism class, Nocera remembers she was shocked as well.

“I was so proud!” Nocera exclaimed. “I used to skip afternoon programs and sneak into Northampton, but Williston helped me clean up my act.”

Those days of slacking off are long behind her. As the Washington D.C. Bureau Chief for Buzzfeed News, Nocera coordinates reporters in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Nocera, the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award winner for distinguished reporting on Congress, spoke to the Williston Journalism class on Thursday, April 6.

“I have to make sure that my reporters are covering the news that our readers are interested in,” Nocera told the class. “We present the issues to our readers, who are very young and smart, without all of the legal jargon. We decode it and focus in on the really important aspects of politics.”

After graduating from UMass Amherst, as well as the City University of New York’s Journalism school, Nocera began work with the New York Daily News. After that she transitioned fully into politics, working for Politico covering health care and then Congress.

Nocera recalled her first position in Politico fondly. “If I’m honest, I had no idea about health care policy at all. I somehow managed to convince the editor at Politico to let me cover health care, and I think it really helped me grow as a journalist.”

She then moved to Buzzfeed News, founded in 2012. Currently they have reporters all around the world, in places like Turkey and China, and the news outlet has gained a reputation around Washington, D.C. “I used to have to explain who we were, but now I find that most Congressmen and senators know us.”

Nocera’s had the opportunity to interview famous, high-powered politicians including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden.

She took the class through a few Capitol Hill tips she’s learned along the way. “Elizabeth Warren hates reporters, and she almost definitely will not stop and talk to you,” she said. “And always have a question at the ready for Joe Biden!” Nocera remembers walking alongside Biden and another reporter, and being “completely star struck. He asked if I had a question and I blanked, but now I have one constantly ready in case I see him again.”

One of her favorite stories she covered was on former Congressman David Wu of Oregon, the first Chinese-American member of the House, who resigned in 2011 amid a scandal involving sexual misconduct. This did not stop him, however, from wandering around Congress, acting like a Congressman for multiple years after his resignation.

“No one had really asked him about it or questioned it, and because I was generally new to Capitol Hill,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is super weird, why is nobody writing about this?’ It turned out to be one of my favorite stories; he just missed his Congressman friends.”

Given the current political climate, Nocera has focused on reporting on the straight facts. She told the class, “It’s important to say what you know, and say what you don’t know.”

After Buzzfeed News published a now infamous dossier in January about President Trump’s ties to Russia, including details about an alleged sexual act involving Trump and multiple Russian prostitutes, the then-President-elect called the news outlet a “failing pile of garbage” in a live press conference on January 11.

“Yeah, that was kind of shocking,” Nocera recalled. “It was a tough decision to release the documents, and we did have a healthy disagreement, but I don’t regret our decision at all. Because we had the report, we felt obligated to report on it.”

The President’s alleged ties with Russia have been under scrutiny in the news for months, and after FBI Director James Comey’s announcement on March 20 that the FBI was conducting a full investigation on the issue, Buzzfeed News became an even more prominent player in the political news world

Buzzfeed has published well over 100 articles about President Trump and will continue to, although Nocera does not believe that they’ll get a one-on-one interview anytime soon.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if we never got a one-on-one interview with the President. Even before we published the documents I didn’t think that we would ever get one.”

The President has an incredibly negative view on the news, which Nocera believes makes covering the news even more important. “In this political climate we have to report on the controversial,” she said. “Just because the President doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean that we’re going to hold back. After the presidential election, I think there has been a shift in the news and how it’s been covered.” Nocera concluded, “I think it’s so incredibly important to report the facts, and to educate our readers on what’s happening, because it affects them so much.”

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Kate Nocera ’01 Talks with Journalism Students