For Stephanie Grace, there’s nothing quite like political writing.
“There’s this fun side to it, all the strategy, like in sports,” she says. “But it’s about something so real and important. As a columnist, I like the idea of being able to maybe nudge people in a certain direction.”
A Massachusetts native, Grace’s first job was working on polls at CBS News.
“I found that I enjoyed news as much as politics,” she says. Grace soon moved to Washington D.C., where she worked as a researcher for the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times. After returning to school for a master’s degree in journalism at Colombia University, she returned to the LA Times as an intern and freelancer at their Washington bureau before taking a job at the Philadelphia Enquirer covering the courts.
She says the time she spent in courts would serve her well in her next venture. In 1994, Grace was hired by The Times-Picayune as a political reporter.
“Politics in Louisiana were so much more colorful than in D.C.,” she says. “With local and state politics you just get such better access to people.”
She says by far her favorite Louisiana politician is Harry Lee. “He was a giant character,” she says. “He’d say anything."
Grace says she vividly remember one of her earliest assignments. “I was covering the nutria problem that was happening in Jefferson Parish,” she says. “At one point I found myself out with the sheriff, in the middle of the night, riding around in a truck shooting giant rats. It was totally surreal.”
From Mary Landrieu’s first run for governor, to the beginning and the end of Ray Nagin – Grace has been there, covering it all as Louisiana’s only female political columnist.
“It’s a great show,” she says, adding that after years covering corruption she has hope for the future of state politics. “In general, I think the message has been sent and received – the rules have changed.”
Mentor: My parents. My dad was in academic medicine and my mom was a teacher. They loved what they did and really encouraged us to do the same, even if it’s not the easiest or most lucrative choice. I suppose that makes it easier for me to take risks.
Defining moment: Hurricane Katrina. I had been with The Times-Picayune for 11 years at that point … We had to hold people accountable, while also giving people a place to talk. I think that time was when I finally knew New Orleans was home.
Advice for young women: When you’re starting out, try a lot of different things. There are so many factors when deciding what to do with your career – things like structure, autonomy, and maybe most importantly, what the people are like in that field. Do they share your values? Do you laugh at the same things? I love journalists. They’re my tribe.
Goals: Journalism is changing so quickly – there are so many financial and technical challenges. One of my goals is to help preserve the heart and soul of what we do. I also would really like to keep stretching different writing muscles. I like to keep things fresh.
Favorite thing about what I do: I love that I get to go to interesting places, meet interesting people and ask interesting questions and then share what I learn with other people.