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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Tulane alum Ali Vitali speaks on journalism career, 2024 election

Tulane alum and NBC political correspondent Ali Vitali talks about her roots in New Orleans and her new book about women in power. (Courtesy of @alivitali)

Tulane University alum Ali Vitali always knew she was passionate about politics and storytelling. 

After her graduation in 2012, Vitali translated these passions into a successful journalism career. Vitali is now one of NBC News’s foremost Capitol Hill correspondents and authored the book “Electable: Why America Hasn’t Put A Woman In The White House … Yet.”

Vitali credits her time at Tulane for her desire to tell stories. 

“You walk around [New Orleans], and you talk to anyone, and everyone’s got a story,” Vitali said, “and they want to share it.” 

She recalls befriending a facilities employee in her sophomore year residence hall. The employee shared her experience with Hurricane Katrina. 

“We talked about her and her neighbors’ Katrina stories, and it was clear to me that the policies and the politics and the government agencies failed the people who were still struggling to put their lives back together,” Vitali said. “It was this beautiful moment of this woman being vulnerable enough to tell me about a pretty dark time in her family’s life after the storm, and then realizing, from taking government and politics classes, there’s an accountability aspect to this too.” 

The employee’s story inspired Vitali to strive to hold those with power accountable through journalism.

“It was eye-opening for me that there were jobs where you could get paid to tell stories and help people either understand policy and its impact on someone’s life or politics and how they can make informed decisions,” she said. 

In Vitali’s first few months as an NBC News correspondent, an editor assigned her to follow Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign trail. She spent 600 days traveling to every rally and speech. 

She recalls how Trump’s 2016 campaign was unprecedented and unpredictable. 

“Trump was tearing down every expectation, every tradition, every norm of the political campaign trail in real time,” Vitali said. “Not knowing how it would end and everyone thinking that he would lose and looking at polls that said he would lose, and then being literally in the room when he walked in and told the crowd of his supporters, ‘Hillary Clinton just called me, and I’m the president of the United States’ — it was truly a story unlike any other I’d covered.”

Following the 2016 election, Vitali reported on Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris. Inspired by these women and the 2016 election, Vitali authored her debut novel, “Electable: Why America Hasn’t Put A Woman In Office … Yet.”

“Hillary Clinton is arguably the most qualified person to ever have run for the presidency. Trump is arguably one of the least traditionally qualified people to ever run for the presidency. And it almost felt to people like it was too on the nose for a woman of her caliber to lose to someone like that,” Vitali said. “It made me interested in sexism and misogyny in politics and media.”

Vitali is now covering the 2024 election. She says the 2016 election’s theme of being unprecedented continues as Trump faces over 80 criminal charges while running for president.

“[Unprecedented is] a word that has almost lost its meaning in the Trump era because so many things have been upended, and we don’t know how voters are going to think about this,” Vitali said.

Despite the level of uncertainty in the upcoming election, Vitali emphasizes the clarity of choice many voters feel, especially on polarizing issues like reproductive rights. 

“When you look at 2024, you have a real choice,” Vitali said. “When I talk to voters, they know that it’s clear on issues that matter to them. Specifically, I think about reproductive access. They know that the Biden administration stands for one thing, and they know that a would-be Trump administration stands for another.”

Vitali sees journalism as a platform for shedding light on the most pressing issues in the United States today and providing voters with the information they need to make informed choices.

“I think it’s important that we illuminate what happens in government; I think it’s important we illuminate how policy ideas will impact people,” Vitali said, “and I think it’s even more important in an election like this one where they have such clear choices between candidates and between parties,” Vitali said.

Vitali acknowledges the hardships of the journalism profession, but she views them as a testament to her passion for politics, holding those in power accountable and empowering the public. 

“These are grueling days, and they are long days and you would not be able to get through them, at least I wouldn’t, without truly loving politics,” Vitali said. “You have to feel like you’re doing it for something bigger than yourself.”

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