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Pradnya Joshi

Pradnya Joshi (BSJ93, MSJ94)

National Weekend Editor at The Washington Post

Pradnya Joshi headshot

When Pradnya Joshi (BSJ93, MSJ94) interviewed for her first job in the 1990s at, then, The Milwaukee Journal, she was asked to write stories about the internet simply because she listed an email address on her application—a novelty at the time. Despite not knowing much about the topic, she was able to use the skills she developed at Medill to quickly and accurately research her subject and write about it in an engaging way.

She now serves as national weekend editor at The Washington Post. This profile was last updated when Joshi served as a department editor at Politico where she oversaw 10 reporters and editors. 

Tell us about your career path. How did you get where you are today?

I graduated from Medill during a recessionary period, so I know very well that it can be hard to jump into journalism in tough economic times. I, however, didn’t have a back-up career plan because I wanted to be a journalist since I was eight years old.

My first job was at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (which was The Milwaukee Journal when I first started there) in the early 1990s. I partly got the job because I had my own “email address.” Well, it wasn’t that I had one, but one interviewer noticed it and asked if I would be willing to write explanatory stories on how the internet worked. “Of course!” I proclaimed, although I hadn’t taken a computer science class.

It was a reminder of how journalists need to become experts in subjects in under four hours–at least expert enough to research topics quickly and accurately, and then write about them succinctly in an engaging style. My next job was at Newsday, and again technology came to my aid in setting me apart from other applicants because I had used Excel spreadsheets to analyze data to report on executive pay.

After 12 years as a reporter, I wanted to pursue editing to have a seat at the table where news decisions are made. I worked at a wire service for a short period before getting hired at The New York Times on one of its copy desks.

The in-person editing tryout at The Times was called “Hell Week” for a reason: Copy editors there did a lot of line editing and other responsibilities beyond knowing grammar and headline writing. I rose through the editing ranks over 11 years. I edited stock market stories as the 2008-09 Great Recession unfolded, tracked numerous corporate scandals and was a part of the digital transformation at The Times.

About three years ago, my family was ready to leave New York City. A friend of mine had taken over as managing editor at Politico. He wooed me to Washington, and it’s been quite a ride covering this administration.

What are your main responsibilities as trade and agriculture editor at Politico?
I oversee 10 reporters and editors in a 300-person newsroom. Our beats have been on the front row of the news of the day as the Trump administration has made international trade issues policy centerpiece. The president has also cultivated farmers as a key political constituency.

One of my reporters just won the prestigious George Polk Award for a hard-hitting series on how a politicized Department of Agriculture ignored climate science. Another award-winning story used explanatory journalism to show how Trump’s trade policies were hurting the rural communities the administration was trying to court.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career?
I didn’t have an innate sense of writing and I didn’t have any role models among my friends or family for how to make it in journalism. Therefore, I needed to learn the foundation of journalism ethics, writing, editing, source building and research from scratch. Medill was, and is, an excellent place to hone those values and skills.

How did the Medill network help you in finding your job?
The network was invaluable every step in my career, whether in finding job leads, mentors or information. I was fortunate that many places I’ve applied to have had many great, hard-working Medill graduates. Several of my bosses have been Medill graduates, although that didn’t mean I had it easier than other co-workers. Before applying to any job, you should use any network you have to research the position, the company culture and expectations of the job. The Medill network usually steps up.

What is a class or experience that sticks out in your mind and why?
It’s hard to single out one class, internship or on-campus experience. I made numerous friends that I keep in touch with. After taking Media Law and Ethics, I became fascinated by libel laws (and so far, haven’t been sued for libel). I still remember the intrigue I felt when reading “Liar’s Poker” as part of now-Professor Emeritus George Harmon’s Business Journalism class. I also happened to participate in the Washington Program during Bill Clinton’s early years as president. I wrote about NAFTA, which Trump just reworked, and learned much about how a bill really becomes a law.

What advice do you have for someone considering Medill?
The professors won’t just be grading your assignments but will be giving you regular critiques, feedback and questions to ponder for your next story. The programs are up to date on the latest changes in digital media and other changes transforming our industry. The caliber of your peers will also make a difference if you reach out to them. The opportunities to report outside of the classroom really encourage hard and meaningful work.

Anything else you’d like to add?

This is a hodge-podge of advice from other journalists that I’ve found to be helpful: Trade prestige for opportunity. Learn the art of being pleasantly persistent (whether it’s when applying for a job or reporting out a story).

Read good writing. Be adept at new technology and new forms of storytelling. Never forget that your ultimate boss is the reader/the audience.

I might be giving away the answer to your first quiz at Medill here, but don’t make careless errors either in school or as a journalist. You’ll earn a Medill “F” -- and lose the trust of your readers.