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NPR Congressional Corespondent Andrea Seabrook visits Uni

Gargoyle photo by Sarah Yockey (click to enlarge)Andrea Seabrook visited Uni on Thursday to speak to students.

Have you ever had the urge to ask a question, only to be stopped by norms of societal nicety? As a journalist, National Public Radio Congressional Corespondent Andrea Seabrook gets to ask all those questions.

"I love having an excuse to ask inappropriate questions of people because I did that anyway. So [...] nobody thinks I'm being an a-- anymore, they think 'Oh, she's a journalist.' So I love talking to people. It is very natural, very intuitive for me."

On Thursday, Seabrook visited Uni to talk to the World Since 1945 class about the issues that she reports on in Congress and what her job is like. She was in town helping WILL Radio/Illinois Public Media celebrate their 90th anniversary.

Seabrook covers all aspects of Congress, from the major actions to the mundane details.

"I have a little office in the House of Representatives on the third floor. [...] I cover the bills that are introduced, the fighting over those bills, the hearings in the committees, what the lawmakers have for lunch if that is relevant, you know, how they interact with each other, how they get elected back home in their districts, how they campaign, how they raise money, and eventually, if it ever happens, how bills pass or don't."

Her reports generally air on "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," but she also produces programs for "Talk of the Nation," "This American Life" and others. She also occasionally writes stories for the website. One of her most recent stories is about how much time members of Congress spend fundraising and how they go about it.

Seabrook says NPR is like the best college ever, with tons of collaboration between smart people who are passionate and curious and not very territorial about their section.

"NPR is a great place to work. It is really collegial. [...] Sometimes I feel like it is a candy store because you can go from desk to desk and just say, 'Okay, Nina Totenberg,what are you working on?' and she'll say, 'Well, the Supreme court is going to do this, this, and this and, you know, the fate of the universe hangs on it.' And then you go to Barbara Bradley Hagerty and say, 'What are you working on?' And she says, 'Well, there's this sect that thinks the universe is going to end tomorrow and I'm just doing the piece about how it didn't.'"

Seabrook's least favorite part of being a journalist is what has to happen between the interviews and the final piece that airs on the radio: writing.

"The hardest part of my job is sitting in front of a blank computer screen. [...] The best feeling in the world though is having written something good. So it is a battle to get through from the blank sheet of paper to the end, but once you get to the end the payoff is so good."

Seabrook didn't start out as a journalist. Instead, she graduated from Earlham college with a degree in biology and spent some time studying in Mexico before deciding that she wanted to work for NPR.

Seabrook joined NPR in 1998 as an editorial assistant for "one of NPR's attempts at a young hip music show" called "Anthem."

"I just got a temp gig there for a week and tried to stay for as long as possible, and ended up getting extended," she said.

Seabrook worked for various programs, including spending time at NPR's Mexico Bureau. She started at the entry level and has worked her way up to being a recognizable name on the radio.

In addition to her regular writing, Seabrook is working a book currently entitled "What's Wrong with Those People" about her ten years reporting on the activities of Congress.

At the end of her time at Uni, Seabrook commented on her impressions of the school.

"I took enough of a tour to get a sense of the fundamental values I think, of the school. [...] I can tell from the open lockers and the way you all interact with your teachers that there is a strong sense of extending trust out in front instead of waiting to trust someone when they have done something trust worthy, to just assume that the students are going to be great and do great things. And it is funny how that is a self-fulfilling prophesy. It is totally inspiring. I wish I could have gone to a school like this. [...] This is where curious minds are fostered, in this kind of environment where the walls are torn down."