Slice of Life

CNN political analyst Natasha Alford talks intertwining journalism with activism

Rachel Raposas / Staff Writer

Her talk highlighted the importance of self-care when reporting on difficult topics.

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In her segment of the Newhouse School of Public Communications’ “Leaders in Communications” series, award-winning journalist Natasha Alford encouraged students to take on a career in journalism and to use their voice for good.

“Journalism is a form of teaching and helping our readers understand the world,” Alford said.

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The CNN political analyst returned to her hometown Wednesday evening to speak to SU students at “Community, Identity and Self-Care: A Conversation with Natasha Alford,” hosted in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium.

Raised on the south side of Syracuse, Alford attended Harvard University and Northwestern University, and she worked in education and investments before deciding to follow her passion of journalism. She has previously had work appear in the New York Times, the Guardian and Oprah Magazine, and she said she currently works as a political analyst for CNN and is the vice president of digital content at theGrio, a Black-owned news media outlet.


Though she wasn’t always planning on going into journalism, Alford said it felt inevitable.

“The seeds of being a journalist were always there,” she said.

Alford always had a passion for writing, and actually visited Newhouse as a high school student when her school competed in a newspaper competition at SU.

In Wednesday evening’s event, Alford explained how she intertwines journalism and the platform journalists have with political activism. As a journalist of color, Alford said she feels a responsibility to reshape the narrative around Black lives and to work against perpetuating the negative stereotypes that often appear in mainstream media.

“Especially if you’re a person of color, you feel this pressure that you have to do something that is important,” Alford said, concerning the close link between news and activism.

Alford’s work gravitates toward tough topics that she feels deserve visibility. She is currently working on a piece exploring the complexities of solitary confinement, she said, and she recently completed a documentary on the Afro-Latino identity, a topic that is personal to her and is underrepresented in news and entertainment media.

“I decided to create the media that I felt wasn’t there,” she said.

Especially if you're a person of color, you feel this pressure that you have to do something that is important
Natasha Alford, CNN political analyst

According to Alford, being Black in the journalism industry weighs heavily on her shoulders when it comes to covering topics such as racial injustice and economic inequality.

“When you work in Black media, there’s always things to be outraged about, (because you are) constantly being confronted with injustice that hits really close to home,” Alford said.

Based on her experience in multiple different news settings, Alford highlighted the need for diversity in the newsroom. She said that more perspectives results in a richer understanding behind the stories and therefore better reporting.

Additionally, as a mother, Alford was faced with the difficult task of raising a family while still working as a journalist. Alford secured what she called her “dream job” — an offer from CNN for a position as a political analyst — while she was pregnant. She took the job and emphasized to women in the audience that they do not have to choose between their family and their career.

Alford maintains the balance between her work life and her family by placing a special emphasis on self care, specifically therapy. She said she views therapy as a safe haven where she can let go of the stress from the workplace and simply focus on herself, and she ensures she has time set aside for it weekly.

Backed with years of experience, the CNN analyst offered advice to students looking to enter communications. Alford encouraged students to believe in themselves, telling audience members “don’t be afraid to take up space.”

As a tip for future journalists, she recommended paying close attention to management dynamics and understanding the business side of news. Additionally, she reminded students to not worry about gaining notoriety within the communications world.

“Worry about the craft and telling good stories, and the relevance will follow,” Alford said.

As final words of encouragement, Alford asked students to live their lives before settling into their communications career. Recalling her life before becoming a journalist, Alford felt those experiences were a large part of what made her successful.

“Make your life rich.”

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