Ripples alumni: Graduate follows passion for journalism to Capitol Hill, Politico

BY ELENA CRUZ —

From field reporter to deputy national editor of Politico, Patrick Reis, class of 2002, has advanced as a journalist with the support of family, friends and coworkers.

Reis unknowingly initiated his career by writing columns for Ripples in high school, working at odd hours to edit and layout the turn-of the century’s version of the paper.

“You would always be loopy at the end of the night. It would be two or three in the morning because we would put stuff off for way too long, goof around way too much and you’d get a late night giddiness, a second wind,” Reis said. “A lot of the times, that’s when you’d make your dumbest mistakes, and you’d also write your most clever headlines.”

During this editing time period, which lasted five to six hours longer than is allowed now, the staff would use manual techniques to put together the paper.

“When we sent it to the publisher, we would take out poster board and we would print out the finished paper, and this guy named Will Meyer would put a ridiculous bandana on over his face and use a highly toxic spray-on glue, and he would spray that onto the poster board, and attach it there.”

However even after the long hours of working, risking health and sanity, Reis had no intention of becoming a journalist until much later in life.

“I don’t think I realized it at the time, but being in a newsroom and talking about what is happening and discussing it with other people who were curious about it and making jokes about it is incredibly fun,” Reis said. “At the time I just thought of it as this fun thing I got to do, and it never, ever occurred to me that you could make a career out of it. Until I actually did, and now I’m lucky enough that I get to [work as a journalist] six and a half days a week because Politico is pretty demanding in terms of work hours.”

Reis graduated high school, and after a yearlong hiatus from school majored in political science at Carleton College while continuing his extracurricular work on the school’s newspaper. It was not until the last several weeks at the university that Reis’s career path was chosen.

Reis then went into the field, working as a reporter for the Seattle newspaper Real Change in 2007. He wrote about the city’s poverty and homelessness as an intern, while simultaneously working at a bar and a toy store.

reis
(courtesy Patrick Reis) Patrick Reis, class of ’02, writes for a national audience at Politico.

“I got to talk to people on the street and learn about their life stories, and really that was when I got absolutely hooked on the idea of being a journalist. It’s just an incredibly satisfying thing to get to talk to total strangers who will tell you about their lives and their thoughts, and you just get to see so many perspectives,” Reis said.

From this job Reis not only realized his passion for the work, but also acknowledged an appreciation of the help around him.

“I was really fortunate because there was any number of things that I did that other editors would have just written me off for, … and I lucked into having editors that would teach me and take the time just to show me how to do things better,” Reis said. “You can achieve a small amount of any success that you have through your own decisions and effort, but so much of it is a question of just being fortunate. If anything, I just feel grateful,” Reis said.

From Real Change, Reis went on to be a reporter at Capitol Hill and at the National Journal in Washington D.C., eventually leaving his post in 2016 to move to the magazine and online publication, Politico. Here, he currently edits stories about the 2016 presidential elections.

“My boss, the national editor or I speak with reporters about what they’re hearing from their sources, what they’re seeing when they travel with the candidates … Then after hearing from them a bit, we discuss what possible angles there might be and what the best way to write about what’s going on is,” Reis said.

After 16 years since leaving the Ripples staff, Reis said he still acknowledges the influence of SHS and its beneficial education.

“Getting opportunities like one gets in Shorewood also means that a person has to remember to give back and to spread that,” Reis said. “These opportunities are not universal, and the things that we enjoy and the success that [Shorewood] sets you up for — rather than just feeling smug about that stuff — you should use it to try to help other people.”

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