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CNN’s White House Connection

Perhaps it was a premonition. A decade ago, as a budding journalist in her final year of GW’s political communication program, Dana Bash, BA ’93, chose to write her senior thesis on “Presidents and the Press.” Bash is now putting that long-ago research to the test as CNN’s newest White House correspondent.

A 10-year veteran of CNN’s Washington bureau, Bash forged ties with the network while still in college. “I started out doing vacation relief, which was a fantastic way to meet people,” she says. When a job came up in the tape library, she landed it—on her 22nd birthday. After nine months, she was promoted to associate producer of CNN’s weekend public affairs shows, and, later, to producer. “It was a tremendous experience working with giants in the field like Frank Sesno, Bob Novak, and Wolf Blitzer,” she says.

After spending three and a half years mastering the complexities of show production, Bash switched gears to news managing. She became a features editor, focusing primarily on Capitol Hill. One of her most memorable assignments was helping to field produce the 1998 presidential impeachment trial. “It was awesome to witness history so close up,” says Bash.

Another highlight that year was covering the presidential election. Bash spent three months traveling with Bill Bradley’s and Al Gore’s primary campaigns. “It was absolutely grueling to be on the road nonstop, but it was another example of being an eyewitness to history in the making,” she says. Bash’s memorable election moments include covering the floor of the Republican National Convention when president George W. Bush made his acceptance speech.

Perhaps her strangest moment on the job occurred as the hotly contested election finally drew to a close. “I was covering the House chamber when Al Gore had to certify the results of the presidential election,” she says. “It was a truly bizarre moment in history, watching the sitting vice president preside over his own loss in the presidential election.”

Soon after, Bash landed full time on Capitol Hill as the network’s Senate producer—a job that she loved. “The Senate beat was fantastic,” she says. “For someone like me who loves government, history, and politics, it was wonderful to spend so much time in the Senate chamber covering the great debates. It was amazing to think that it was actually my job to be there.”

Bash particularly enjoyed the openness of Congress. “The senators are extremely accessible to the press,” she says, “which makes Congress a phenomenal place to cover. We’d bump into them throughout the day—in the cafeteria, in the subway under Capitol Hill. There were frequent opportunities to talk.”

Not surprisingly, Congress had a fair number of wonderful characters to cover, says Bash, listing a few of her favorites as Robert Byrd, Jesse Helms, John McCain, Phil Gramm, Ted Kennedy, and the late Paul Wellstone.

Another political leader who left an indelible impression on Bash was the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. One of the highlights of her career was producing what she believes was the last interview with Rabin by an American journalist for “Evans and Novak” in September 1995, a short time before his assassination. “We met at his hotel room, and I just remember every bit of that interview so vividly,” she says.

Professional accolades have rained down on Bash as she’s climbed steadily through the ranks at CNN. The American Journalism Review’s July/August 2002 issue named her an “Unsung Hero” in a story on accomplished Washington-area journalists who work behind the scenes. She has appeared regularly on CNN’s “Saturday Edition” and wrote a column for Roll Call.

Bash says she doubts that she would be where she is today if she had not attended GW. “GW’s political communication program was fantastic academically and even better practically,” she says, “and you never can underestimate the power of being in Washington. The bottom line is that you learn by doing and by getting to know people in the field. My outstanding professors, like Steve Roberts, were able to introduce me to this world, which was invaluable.”

Now as Bash settles into an even closer seat to the action, she’s anticipating the opportunity of a lifetime. “I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, and covering the White House is as good as it gets,” she says. “Talk about a front row seat to history! I’m just buckling my seat belt and getting ready for the ride.”

—Jamie L. Freedman