CofC alumna paves her way in the news world on Capitol Hill

As a third-year political science and communication major at the College of Charleston, Caroline Kenny chose to spend her fall semester in Washington, D.C., interning on Capitol Hill.

She did not realize the limited scope of her knowledge about the political workings of her country until the first day on the job with the Democratic National Committee.

“What does POTUS mean?” she remembers asking after being handed a stack of papers several inches thick.

“I didn’t know what any of it was. I was 19 years old,” she admitted.  

By the end of that formational semester, Kenny had learned quite a bit about the government and the “POTUS” so  returned to CofC with a solidified interest in politics and a clear direction – headed back to Capitol Hill.

Kenny, who visited her alma mater to talk in front of the Communication Advisory Council and current CofC students last week, graduated from the CofC Honors College with bachelor’s degrees in communication and political science and a minor in Spanish.  

When she attended the College, Kenny had a variety of interests and passions, spanning from political news to sports media.

She told the Advisory Council and communication students that her time at CofC helped her figure out what she wanted to pursue during and after college.

“When you are a communication major, there are all these different avenues you can take,” Kenny said.

As an undergraduate, Kenny completed a summer internship in non-political communications, which consisted of managing the public relations for “one really big client” – Nathan’s Famous, Inc.

Kenny promoted the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest across the country and was fortunate enough to experience the behind-the-scenes workings of a national event.

The CofC grad  also interned for Peppercomm, Inc., the summer after she graduated from CofC, working for financial clients, hedge funds and restaurant groups.

After these two internships and varied experiences during her undergraduate years in communication, public relations and journalism, Kenny decided the path she would choose.

“I decided to get back to my roots in politics,” she said. .

Kenny attended Northwestern University for graduate school, where she received her master’s degree at the Medill School of Journalism.

She reported on the 2016 presidential race for Medill News, visiting the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, meeting candidate Hillary Clinton at the Iowa caucus and interviewing Martin O’Malley when he dropped out of the race.

“This is how I am going to get the job that I want – being in the same room where everything is happening,” she said.

Kenny, who had previously visited CNN and met Wolf Blitzer during a spring break trip to New York City, received a call from her favorite news network in August 2016.

CNN needed help covering the rest of the 2016 presidential election.

Kenny began working for CNN as a digital producer, writing and producing stories for CNN Politics, programming the CNN Politics web pages and creating social content for CNN Politics social properties.

“I took that and turned it into my own beat,” Kenny explained.

She began covering the 2020 election in South Carolina, a state she believes is “the center of the political universe for 2020 democratic prospects.”

“I crafted a passion project, which turned into a full-time gig,” Kenny says of her interest in presidential election coverage in South Carolina.

Kenny believes that South Carolina plays an important role in presidential elections, especially in 2020 because there is an emphasis on appealing to a more diverse democratic voting base, which South Carolina offers.

This is one of the most historically unprecedented times in American policy, and Kenny and her fellow South Carolinians have “a front row seat to history.”

In her explanation of how she has shaped her own career to study a state close to her heart and at the forefront of American politics, Kenny urged students to do the same – to develop their interests while in school and pursue something about which they are passionate.  

She urged students to use their experience in college and in internships to decide what is best for them and to figure out what will help them get ahead and to where they want to be.

For Kenny, these steps included being open to diverse opportunities, letting herself be challenged, heeding criticism and critique, networking and taking risks.

Kenny also explained that the kinds of people who succeed are those who understand they are not done learning.

As a young professional working at CNN, Kenny also quickly learned that she had to trust in her work, even if she was used to receiving dozens on red marks on a first draft.

One month into the job on a Sunday late at night, Kenny was presented with the opportunity to write her first piece of work that would be published by CNN.

She took initiative, took the challenge and submitted her article. A few hours later, her work was published on the CNN website.

She sent the link to everyone she knew, telling them to look at the name in the byline of the CNN Politics article: “Caroline Kenny.”

 

by Abbie Kline

 

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