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ISU alum describes tense times in Washington as a New York Times political reporter

Carl Hulse at WGLT
Eric Stock
Carl Hulse

A New York Times political reporter says it's a tense time in Washington as the United States prepares for a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Carl Hulse is an Illinois State University alum. He has covered Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court during six administrations during his time in the nation’s capital.

Hulse said those tensions have helped unify Republicans and Democrats to some degree, but they don't all agree on sanctions against Russia.

“There is a part of the Republican Party right now that’s also saying ‘We don’t need to be doing this, we don’t want to be involved,’ but I would say that’s not the majority view of the Republicans – certainly in the Senate and a large number in the House,” Hulse said in a WGLT Sound Ideas interview.

Hulse, an Ottawa, Ill., native, has returned to campus to receive the university's alumni achievement award Thursday night. (The snowstorm canceled the awards dinner.)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch, R-Idaho, is surrounded by reporters asking about the crisis in Ukraine, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch, R-Idaho, is surrounded by reporters asking about the crisis in Ukraine, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.

Hulse said the GOP has a “very pronounced” split. He said you can see that in how party leaders disagree over the framing of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“The hard right is really hard right and (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators, they were there for Jan. 6 and they do not want to entertain the idea that that was somehow some sort of legitimate political discourse,” Hulse said.

Hulse said the stories he’s most interested in following this year are the midterm elections and the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. He said he sees plenty of intrigue in President Joe Biden’s planned nomination of the first Black woman to serve on the high court, even if Democrats presumably have the votes they need for confirmation and the appointment wouldn’t shift the conservative balance on the court.

“These things have a way of changing," he said. "I think any way you cut it, it’s an historic appointment. I’m on the side of this is overdue.”

State of journalism

Hulse added a rise in partisan media outlets has made some lawmakers more hesitant to talk to reporters.

“This is on both the left and the right, they are very skeptical of us and want to gravitate toward outlets that they know are more in line with their thinking. That can make it difficult,” Hulse said.

Hulse said the journalism industry remains in flux. He said reporters today have to produce a lot more content for digital and traditional platforms and perform real-time fact-checking.

He defended the media against claims that it should focus more on policy and less on political horse races. “I think people tend to overlook the policy stories we do,” Hulse said. “Some folks think that’s boring. Some people think it’s great. I try to find a good mix.”

Hulse said he got his start in journalism reporting for ISU's student newspaper, the Vidette, in the 1970s.

Despite job cuts and resizing in many newsrooms across the country, he’s bullish on the industry for aspiring reporters. “It’s a good time to be looking for work. We’ve has this weird realignment in the labor force. There are jobs out there for people,” Hulse said.

His advice for aspiring reporters: “Read everything you can get your hands on and write a lot.”

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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