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From AJR,   February/March 2013  issue

Ubiquitous Erin McPike Moves to CNN   

She brings a wide network of sources to the network.Mon., February 4, 2013.


By Sandra Muller
Sandra Muller (sandra.mueller1987@googlemail.com) is a graduate student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.     

A week before her January 28 debut as a CNN general assignment correspondent in Washington, D.C., a single glance at her Twitter account provided Erin McPike with plenty of extra reading. "Well deserved success," said one of the tweets. "A good hire," stated another. A former college professor proclaimed herself to be "pretty damn proud" of McPike.

"Thrilled and honored," McPike finally responded about her feelings regarding the new gig to her more than 13,000 followers. The job means a lot to the 29-year-old journalist from Ohio. "I wanted to make this jump for a long time," she says.

While it's not a big jump in terms of geography--McPike has been living in the capital for 11 years--it's a big jump on the job ladder: from small-staffed Real Clear Politics, a Chicago-based political news and polling data aggregator, to global player CNN.


Erin McPike. Credit: CNN.

But McPike is hardly a rookie when it comes to TV. As national reporter for Real Clear Politics, where she started in the summer of 2010, McPike covered the 2012 presidential election and became a cable fixture. McPike made so many appearances on CNN, Fox and MSNBC that media writer Dylan Byers of Politico described her as "ubiquitous."

It's no accident McPike is doing what she's doing. "I always wanted to be a journalist," she says, recalling sitting in front of the TV as a toddler enthusiastically watching the 1988 presidential campaign unfold.

The Cincinnati native graduated from Sycamore High School in 2001 and moved to Washington, where she studied political science and journalism at American University. "If you are into politics, it's the best place to be," she says. "But you need a competitive mind."

In 2007, two years after her graduation, she began covering Mitt Romney's first presidential campaign as an embedded journalist for NBC News and National Journal. Equipped with a BlackBerry and a camera, she shadowed the candidate for six months. "It was hard," she says. "I always had the feeling of not doing enough." But, she adds, "I learned how to write really fast and how to get things done quickly."

It was then that she met Scott Conroy, who later became her fellow reporter at Real Clear Politics. "It was great working together with Erin," he says. "She is a tenacious reporter, which is an important quality for a journalist."

Conroy is convinced McPike's willingness to "go the extra mile" was one of the strengths that got her the job at CNN. "She is one of those people who are naturally curious and also naturally aggressive to get the information they need."

And getting the right information is essential to pulling off something McPike loves about her job: breaking a piece of news. "It's always a big rush" to have something first, she says.

In 2008, shortly after the campaign, McPike began working for National Journal's Congress Daily, a Web site that covers the ins and outs of Capitol Hill, which was rebranded National Journal Daily in 2010.

Patrick Gavin, a friend of McPike's who writes for Politico, calls her "a political junkie." "It's in her bloodstream," he says. "That explains why she loves what she is doing."

McPike comes to CNN with a wide network of sources. "When we were working together on Capitol Hill, she connected me to many people," says Caitlin Huey-Burns, a former colleague of McPike's at Real Clear Politics. "I was the newest on staff at RCP, and she was very mentoring."

"Obsessively" pursuing political news doesn't leave much room for pursuing other interests. "Honestly, I don't have tons of free time," she says. "You make a career decision, and this becomes part of your life."

If McPike does find herself with some time off, she's apt to spend it swimming or taking long runs through the nation's capital. In 2011, she participated in a 2.4-mile open-water race in Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean.

And if she hadn't become a political journalist, McPike says she probably would have pursued a musical career. After seeing "Annie Get Your Gun" when she was 16--a show she still describes as the best she's ever witnessed--she made regular pilgrimages to Broadway. After the 2010 midterm elections, she drove to New York and watched five musicals in three days--and did the same again after the primaries in 2012.

It is, she says, a great way to decompress.