Kathy Kiely

I felt an obligation as a woman, as a pioneer, to take that job and to do a good job, so that somebody else could come after me and do that. And I think that is a big motivation for women of my cohort, that we feel we must take on this role.

— Kathy Kiely

Kathy Kiely

For Kathy Kiely, political reporting precluded her attendance at the annual JAWS camps. Nevertheless, she maintained membership for a decade and participated in the activities of the regional Washington, D.C., group. Upon finally experiencing her first camp in 2013, she came away energized and inspired. She considers it “a professional group with a nice social aspect to it” and a unique history because of the trials of its “founding mothers.” She said the group discussions not only deal with gender issues but also career management and networking, which makes JAWS especially relevant in the midst of today’s industry changes.

Kathy was raised in Pittsburgh, by a mother who was a pioneering television anchor and a father who was a sports writer. Her interest in journalism started early, and to prepare herself for a journalism career, she matriculated at Princeton in the university’s fifth class of women. She labored at the college paper and served on the managing board, but she faced a challenge finding a job following graduation. Thus, she returned to her hometown to begin reporting at the Pittsburgh Press until a transfer to the D.C. bureau as its correspondent several years later. She stayed in D.C., becoming a national correspondent for various U.S. metropolitan papers and a reporter at USA Today. Whenever possible, she expanded her skills set by participating in a Knight Fellowship and obtaining a master’s degree from American University in interactive journalism. Her most recent stint was at the National Journal to lead a project, before being recruited by the Sunlight Foundation. She accepted the managing editor position at Sunlight because she believes that nonprofits nowadays have better means to avoid commercial pressures on media. Concurrently, she teaches a few journalism classes at American University and George Washington University, and marvels at how technology has created many opportunities for young people, something that wasn’t available for people of her generation.

By chance, I first met Kathy at the 2013 JAWS camp during dinner. She was an interesting and knowledgeable conversationalist, so when the time came to recruit D.C.-area JAWS members for the oral history project, I immediately thought of inviting her. She accepted happily, and we spoke on December 17 and 19, 2013, at her office near D.C.’s Dupont Circle. Unbeknownst to me before arriving at the interview, she was busy juggling her job while checking in on her ill father, but she was very generous with her time and her reflections.

( This interview was conducted by Youn-Joo Park )