Seung Min Kim says Congress is “the best beat in town.” The veteran political reporter writes for “The Washington Post,” where she covers the relationship between Congress and the president. She says working for “The Daily Iowan” as a University of Iowa undergraduate prepared her for the job.


On a dark, blustery evening in January 2004, Seung Min Kim found herself in the midst of a warm and raucous celebration in Iowa’s capital.

Sen. John Edwards and his supporters were reveling in a strong second-place finish in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, and Kim was in Des Moines covering the results as a reporter for The Daily Iowan. She was a first-year University of Iowa student.

“I was at the Edwards victory party, where there were hundreds of people from national media outlets,” she says. “I was just 18 and had no clue how the caucuses worked. But I had a front-row view as a Daily Iowan reporter.”

Four years on the college newspaper’s staff, including two as a metro editor, set the stage for Kim’s career in political reporting, which has led her from USA Today to Politico to The Washington Post. In February 2018, the 2007 UI graduate started in a newly created position with the Post, covering the relationship between the nation’s executive and legislative branches.

“The Post carved out a unique and interesting beat: I’m a White House reporter who covers the administration through the lens of Capitol Hill,” she says. “There is a wealth of stories looking at how Congress is affected by policies of the administration and other executive actions.”

Seung Min Kim
Above: Seung Min Kim interviews Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Top: Seung Min Kim interviews former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

“Being in Iowa, you have access to presidential candidates who are very interested in courting every news outlet, even college newspapers. I wrote about Hillary Clinton when I was 21. Very few college journalists have that opportunity. It really was the stepping stone to my career.”

Seung Min Kim
Reporter for "The Washington Post"

She spends most of her day in the Capitol Building, talking to lawmakers and congressional aides and filing stories from her laptop. Recent stories have focused on the confirmation process of executive appointees and the president’s admonishment of those who have blocked them. Rarely are interviews formally scheduled. Rather, they come from chance encounters in the Capitol or ones that are more calculated after a quick schedule review and a determination of the targeted legislator’s likely walking paths.

“A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time. It’s rare to get a news question in to President Trump, but on Capitol Hill, you could be in the hallway on your way to the bathroom and run into a political leader. The access is really something else. From that, you get scoops and meld stories into a White House angle.”

She crossed paths one day with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and was surprised to get 18 minutes of his time. Kim usually writes a story or two a day and says there is no shortage of leads to follow. She works closely with her editors to prioritize topics and fine-tune angles.

After graduating from Iowa, Kim spent a year each reporting for The Star-Ledger in New Jersey and USA Today’s Washington bureau before landing at Politico, where she covered Congress. It’s work that she loves.

“Congress is the best beat in town,” Kim says. “Covering the White House seems glamorous and you get to travel when you’re on the campaign trail, but when you’re reporting on the White House alone, there is usually one agenda. With Congress, there are 535 different agendas and dueling personalities. Covering it is a fascinating view into how our government works—or doesn’t work.”

Kim, who grew up in Iowa City, says she developed an interest in writing at a young age but didn’t think she had the creativity to manage fiction. Instead, she wrote for her high school newspaper and earned a Daily Iowan scholarship to attend the University of Iowa.

She earned a BS in journalism and mass communication and political science. In The Daily Iowan newsroom, she wrote about everything from the local school board to the state universities to UI Hospitals and Clinics. She particularly enjoyed covering the court system and says she appreciates the experience of being an editor and managing a team.

“Working at The Daily Iowan allowed me to get a taste of professional journalism at a young age, and it taught me the basic tenets of journalism—from working quickly to ensuring accuracy,” Kim says. “Being in Iowa, you have access to presidential candidates who are very interested in courting every news outlet, even college newspapers. I wrote about Hillary Clinton when I was 21. Very few college journalists have that opportunity. It really was the stepping stone to my career.”

Story
Sara Epstein Moninger
Photography
John Shinkle of Politico

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