Brian Mahoney '09

Law student, former journalist

I knew in high school that I wanted to be a journalist, so I majored in English. Because I knew I wanted to be a journalist, I also joined the paper immediately in college. My work on the newspaper and my English major helped me land an internship at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, D.C. during my junior summer. I was hired into a very competitive field because I worked on the paper and I could write coherently. I landed my first job just two weeks before graduation, at U.S. News and World Report. I was hired as an intern in their travel section, where I helped launch their travel website. My colleagues and I wrote "meta-reviews," or articles on destinations like Barcelona and Berlin using information culled from travel books. I spent over a year there and used my time to learn about web journalism and the online media business.

I later moved on to Law360, a legal newswire, where I eventually became a reporter covering federal courts in New York City and Washington, D. C. The job was challenging because I had to write about complex legal issues for a highly sophisticated readership. The analytic skills I learned as an English major made my success at Law360 possible. In 2014, I became a policy reporter for Politico, helping to launch the website's new section on labor and employment policy. At Politico I had the privilege to cover the U.S. Supreme Court, the 2016 presidential campaign, and the Fight for $15 fast food workers wage movement. My love of law and policy then led me to Temple Law School in Philadelphia, PA, where I am currently a student.

I found that I had mobility in the field because I was an easy edit. Many of my colleagues who majored in journalism didn't focus as intensely on persuasive, coherent, elegant writing.

Having an English major from William & Mary is a definite plus in the northeast region, and especially in Washington, D.C. Despite the school's visibility, I wouldn't have found jobs in journalism had I not worked as reporter and editor for The Flat Hat. Newspaper editors like to hire college media types, probably because they came from the college media world as well. Knowing other alumni within the media network was also very valuable. William & Mary alumni are numerous in the media.

I'd recommend highly technical courses rooted in literary theory or technique. A prized quality of a good journalist or lawyer is the ability to read and write about technical subject matter for a general audience. It's a skill I learned while writing about literary theory. I'm also an able scanner of texts. I can scan a forty-five page court opinion in 10 minutes and write coherently about the what the decision means for a sophisticated readership of policy experts. I learned that skill in college. I can also write and craft coherent arguments and stories, an obvious and valuable ability for a journalist.

English is a major that some deride as an easy way to spend four years as an undergraduate. That's not true at William & Mary. The professors are highly demanding and the courses tend to be rigorous. The professors are also invested in undergraduate instruction, and having faculty mentors to guide me through the major made me a far more capable writer and reader.