The Tim Russert Fellowship is one of the most prestigious opportunities for anyone aspiring to work in political journalism. The fellowship is a one-year, paid position in the NBC News Washington, D.C. Bureau. Those selected for the fellowship help reporters and producers with news shoots, content editing, and story research. This highly competitive position is awarded to only one person per year. In 2018, that person was Kyle Stewart. “I was very excited when I got the fellowship,” Stewart said. “It was my top goal.”
This program is often called a “political journalism boot camp.” Less than a year after he graduated, Stewart finds himself editing episodes of the Meet the Press podcast, researching information for reporters, and producing panel segments for shows.
Stewart said his experience at Ithaca College has helped him to thrive in his fellowship. While at IC, Stewart produced and reported for Newswatch and ICTV Reports. He also wrote for the campus newspaper, The Ithacan. Stewart didn’t limit his journalistic endeavors to South Hill. He helped to cover the 2016 South Carolina GOP Primary for NBC Nightly News Weekend. In 2017, he helped to cover the Presidential Inauguration for PBS NewsHour.
“The people who were interviewing me were impressed with a lot of the hands-on experience I had during my time in college,” Stewart said. “The first (journalism department trip) that I went on was the trip to South Carolina to cover the Republican Primary in 2016. We were actually working with NBC News. So having the experience of filming and interviewing for a segment for nightly news back then, I think that really showed that I had the skills that I needed to do this fellowship.”
From summer internships on Capitol Hill to working in hands-on media environments, Stewart gained a diverse portfolio of experiences while at IC. Looking back, Stewart admits that he originally did not want to attend IC.
“My parents are both alumni from Ithaca, but they were not in journalism,” Stewart said. “My dad is a physical therapist. My mom was a math and economics major and now she’s a teacher. When I was younger, I always knew about Ithaca, but I did not want to go there at first because I wanted to do something different from my parents.”
His mind started to change once Stewart realized his passion for journalism and politics.
“When I started looking into the communications school and the reputation the communications school had, I thought ‘Wow this could really be a good fit,’” Stewart said. “I came to tour the college and I really fell in love. Especially when I got to see the studios and talk to people from ICTV.”
By the first semester of his freshman year, Stewart was an assistant producer for Newswatch, ICTV’s news show. After researching and writing the headlines for a few shows, one of his producers asked him to be a political commentator for Election Center 2014—a special November program covering national, state, and local elections. Less than three months into his undergraduate career, Stewart found himself on ICTV’s airwaves
“I had never been on TV before and I was super nervous and it showed,” Stewart said. “I was the youngest person on air and it was really warm and I was sweating. I probably felt worse than I looked on air. It was a whole new experience for me, but I learned from that. I learned how to improve my on-air delivery.”
Stewart practiced his enunciation, tone, and other cues that would help him appear more natural on air. A few months later, Stewart anchored Newswatch. He said his experiences on and off camera prepared him for a career in journalism.
“I definitely had many times where my stories fell through, where my idea that I wanted to do wasn’t working out, [or] it was running up to the deadline,” Stewart said. “I think that was a great experience for a career in journalism because those things are going to happen. With ICTV, the consequences are not as high whereas if you’re doing it for NBC News. That hub of ICTV is a great place to learn.”
By his senior year, Stewart produced and anchored his own ICTV show. ICTV Reports is more of a long form journalism show,” Stewart said. “I really loved being able to do that. That was kind of a goal when I first got to Ithaca as a freshman. I started doing Newswatch, but I thought it would be really cool to one day have a show at ICTV that was more focused on longer form stories, so being able to do that my last semester was really important to me.”
Producing ICTV Reports also taught Stewart about leading a team and creating content. “I got to manage a team of journalists and to find stories that deserve more than just a minute-thirty package,” Stewart said. “Stories that need more time to be told. I learned a lot about storytelling and management styles as well. I was the anchor so I learned how to improve my on-air skills. That was a whole bunch of different great experiences wrapped up in one.”
Less than one year out of undergrad and Stewart already has a diverse range of experiences; his Tim Russert Fellowship ends in August. After that, Stewart is unsure of his next move.
“I’m not really sure what I want to do next exactly, but I know I want to continue working in political news,” Stewart said. “It’s really important. It’s a public good. I think it’s necessary for our country right now to have good journalism and honest reporting.”