A Different Side of the White House
January 27, 2017 | By Tim Pratt
Kate Glassman Bennett has always had a fascination with popular culture.
That interest created an unusual juxtaposition when she was a student at St. John’s College. While she and her classmates stayed busy reading the great books of Western civilization, she also kept up with celebrity news and fashion trends.
“I was the one who had a TV in my room and read Vogue,” the 1997 Annapolis graduate says with a laugh.
Bennett’s fascination with news, politics and pop culture now has taken her all the way to the White House.
Earlier this month, Bennett was hired by CNN to be one of the network’s White House reporters. She will focus on the “lifestyle elements” of White House life, she says, “that weird mashup of entertainment and pop culture with the first-ever reality show president.”
Bennett already has received airtime on the cable news network and written pieces for its website. A story published January 26 focuses on the family of President Donald Trump and their social media posts, which show life behind the scenes. She also covered the inaugural parade, including a look at what first lady Melania Trump was wearing, and how the first family was adjusting to life in Washington, D.C.
“I’m looking at unique ways to cover a presidential administration,” Bennett says.
This comes as Trump and others in his administration have spoken out against the mainstream media for its coverage. Bennett hopes the fact that she’s new to the network and isn’t on a typical political beat will help her establish good sources within the White House. That will lead to interesting stories the public wants to read, she says.
Despite her new role, Bennett is no stranger to Pennsylvania Avenue. For more than a year before coming to CNN, she covered the White House for the Independent Journal Review, focusing not just politics, but on what was happening in the East Wing. She worked for Politico before that, writing about lifestyle topics on Capitol Hill and beyond.
Bennett says her time at St. John’s has helped her throughout her career.
Shortly after graduating in 1997, Bennett landed a job on Hardball with Chris Matthews. Six days later, the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke with then-President Bill Clinton.
“I was there for the rise of punditry and talking heads,” she says, noting she used to book on the show Kellyanne Conway, who now works as Counselor to the President.
Eventually Bennett took a newspaper job in Las Vegas, where she hoped to stay for a year or two before returning to the East Coast. Instead, she stayed in Las Vegas for 10 years, moving from the newspaper industry to television and eventually to magazines.
Bennett sunk her teeth into entertainment reporting while in Las Vegas, interviewing stars like Wayne Newtown, Siegfried and Roy, and Celine Dion. She says she covered “the fun side of the Vegas strip.” She even anchored a TV newscast.
Bennett eventually got married, had a daughter and left her full-time job. But she still had a desire to report, and got into freelance writing. She did lifestyle pieces, focusing on celebrities, fashion, fine dining and other topics.
Bennett returned to the full-time working world when she landed a job as editor-in-chief of Vegas magazine. She worked there for nearly two years before moving to Washington, D.C., to be editor-in-chief of Capitol File magazine, focusing on society, fashion and the “movers and shakers” in D.C., she says.
Then Washingtonian came calling, and Bennett became the publication’s fashion editor. She ran some of their ancillary publications, too.
Eventually, Bennett took a job at Politico, then Independent Journal Review before finally arriving at CNN.
Throughout Bennett’s career, she says the lessons she learned at St. John’s have influenced how she approaches stories.
“It’s how I look at things,” she says. “I think the key to being a journalist—a good one who doesn’t just follow the pack—is a very St. John’s way of doing things. We’re not given the textbook and sitting in a big lecture with a professor. We’re asking ‘What about this part?’”
Bennett says her desire to learn more, think critically and dig deeper into topics should help her in her new job, too.
“I think Johnnies have a way of looking at something everybody else is looking at and pulling out a different focus,” she says. “That is totally my thing.”