Tyler Kingkade is an assistant editor and student debt correspondent for the Huffington Post. He started contributing to the Huffington Post when he was in college, winning a couple of regional and national awards. From there, he moved on to do a program at Georgetown University called The Fund for American Studies Institute on Political Journalism, working part time for the Huffington Post.
Being a relatively new beat, Kingkade is setting the precedent for conglomeration of the subject, as well as developing original content investigating and reporting on individual stories and scenarios.
Branden Andersen: How did you get interested in student debt?
Tyler Kingkade: I have student debt of my own — a lot of it. I began realizing in college that most of my friends were taking on huge amounts of debt, but at the same time, when the credit crunch hit in 2007 and 2008, the low cost options we had, like the non-profit Iowa Student Loan, were no longer issuing loans. I started to see in the national news that we had growing student debt “bomb” or “bubble” and it was rife with scams and predatory lending. (Years later, the CFPB has proved that to be true.) But instead of griping about my own problems, I decided to share other peoples’ stories which were much more depressing. Being a journalist, I have the unique advantage to investigate and write about problems in the world for an audience. It’s a basic and cheesy thing to say, but it’s true.
BA: The student debt beat is a relatively new trend in the news. Is it hard to find stories or angles?
TK: It’s not hard because there are still a lot of problems. The problem, if any, is to show what’s new, rather than simply repeating the story of someone simply having a lot of debt. I think it’s fairly easy for people to become numb to that because eventually they tune out and say “Yeah, OK, it’s expensive, people have a lot of student debt, we get it.” So there are issues within the realm of student debt — bankruptcy protection, adult co-signers, the FAFSA and eligibility rules, interest rates, activism, fee abuse, so on.
BA: What’s the hardest part about your job?
TK: The hardest part is understanding finance without a finance background. But even so, student loans are sort of their own world compared to virtually any other type of consumer loans.
BA: What do you love about your job?
TK: I love being able to give people a voice. I love my colleagues. I have a great company and I’m happy that we’re one with an editorial policy that recognizes how big of an issue this is. We also get a lot of free pizza, sandwiches and beer in the office.
BA: What advice do you offer to a young journalist months away from leaving school?
TK: I’d say have a few solid pieces you are most proud of that you can show quickly, especially since companies only want to see 3 or 4 articles you’ve done. Put that together in an online portfolio – it can be simple, but just have one. And have a social media presence. If nothing else, go on there and share your work and maybe whatever else you’re interested in covering, even if you didn’t write it. Have your LinkedIn set up, and keep an eye out for internships. If you want to leave the area you’re in, it’s better to start with an internship. Usually with a full-time job, whether it’s a smaller newspaper or a large national outlet, they want you living in the area first. However, they’ll consider someone as an intern from just about anywhere.