New York Times reporter, WKU alumna speaks to students

Nikita Stewart, a 1994 WKU Alumna and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc member from Bowling Green, Kentucky talks to students, faculty, and the public about her experiences as an investigative reporter for the New York Times in Mass Media’s Auditorium on Monday, April 25, 2016 in Bowling Green Kentucky. Ebony Cox/HERALD

Monica Kast

New York Times investigative reporter and WKU alumna Nikita Stewart was on campus Monday and Tuesday speaking to several journalism classes and other attendees as part of the John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series.

Stewart currently works at the New York Times as a social services reporter. She spoke on Monday night about the importance of local reporting in terms of investigative journalism.

“If you are asking questions, you are an investigative reporter,” Stewart said on Monday. “All stories are the beginnings of investigations. It might not happen right away.”

Stewart moved to Bowling Green from Texas before her freshman year and attended Warren Central High School. She said she was already interested in journalism in high school and worked for the Bowling Green Daily News. After graduating from WKU in 1994, Stewart went on to work at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Stewart spoke of her time as an investigative reporter at the Washington Post, where she uncovered corruption during the 2010 mayoral campaign. She said she began covering Vince Gray’s campaign as a routine beat story and eventually uncovered corrupt actions taken by Gray. Through connections she had made in Kentucky, Stewart was able to find the records and sources she needed.

“Investigative reporting generally doesn’t start from scratch, and neither did my career,” Stewart said. “This business is small, and it’s only getting smaller.”

During a question and answer session, students and professors were able to ask Stewart questions about her career. Stewart again emphasized the importance of local reporting in terms of news becoming more digitized.

“I strongly believe in local journalism. I think people will pay to see themselves and to know that they are getting news about the issues they care about,” Stewart said. Later, she added, “I strongly believe that the industry is not looking at local reporting as the savior it could be.”

Students asked Stewart about some of the stories she worked on and which were her favorites.

“My favorite story is the one I’m working on now,” Stewart said. “Whatever I’m working on now, I’m in it, this is it, this is going to be my favorite story.”

On Tuesday, Stewart spoke to several journalism classes about her career and offered advice. She also spoke of the transition she made from Bowling Green to the New York Times.

“There’s so many things that are universal,” Stewart said. “Other than, like, we have a train system and you all don’t, there are so many things that are the same.”

Alexandria Clark, Nashville senior, asked Stewart about any difficulties she faced as an African-American woman in journalism.

“I have walked out on people,” Stewart said. “Usually they’ll call me back. I have hung up on people before concerning a racial issue.”

Stewart said her interest in people keeps her interested in journalism even in an area some call the “misery beat.”

“I really enjoy talking to different people,” Stewart said. “I’m having a ball right now.”