During a Day with Students, Journalist Michael Kruse Draws Connections Between Political Reporting and Citizenship

By Gordon Silverman

For Politico senior reporter Michael Kruse, “Reporting is a conscious act of citizenship.”

That sense of responsibility was part of the insights on political reporting Kruse delivered during a half-day visit Jan. 29 with Duke students.

His visit was sponsored by POLIS: Duke’s Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service and cosponsored by the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy.

Winner of the Paul Hansell Award for Distinguished Achievement in Florida Journalism and the American Society of News Editors’ distinguished non-deadline writing award, Kruse was a guest in POLIS Director Fritz Mayer’s Democracy Lab class and in DeWitt Wallace Center Director Bill Adair’s News Writing and Reporting class.

He also delivered a talk as part of a public lecture/Q&A session on the recent transformation of political journalism and what it means to be a reporter in today’s challenging environment.

Kruse’s career began somewhat unusually.  At 19 years old, he became a freelance writer and a scout for the ACC Basketball Handbook, traveling the country interviewing college and NBA prospects.  This was a great learning experience for his later political commentaries, he said, as it taught him how to listen to and understand people’s stories.

Kruse’s political stories capture Americana by presenting people—often those living away from the public eye—in dignified ways.  He said he focuses less on causes and more in illuminating lives so that his readers might learn more about the people who shape our country from the inside.

“I let people keep talking,” Kruse said. “That’s actually the job. Listen and mean it.”

Kruse also spoke about a profession that lost 58 percent of its workforce between 2001 and 2016—a decline of 238,000 newspaper reporters nationwide.  “That’s 238,000 people who no longer go to municipal meetings or make public records requests, who no longer knock on doors or sit in luncheonettes and on porches and in living rooms and at kitchen tables and listen to people. And tell their stories.”

Having started his reporting career in 2000, he’s been “climbing a vanishing ladder” ever since, “the rungs slipping from the ropes as I go.”  However, he remains optimistic, in that “old rungs give way to new rungs,” and that reporters must keep climbing.