Washington Center for Politics & Journalism was established
in the District of Columbia in December 1988, as a non-profit corporation.
It received tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in
1989, as a “501(c)(3)” educational foundation – which
allows tax deductible gifts in support of the Center’s work.
The Center was created for the specific purpose of running one program,
originally called “The Politics & Journalism Internship,” to
teach future political reporters about politics from the perspective
of political practitioners and political journalists. The name was
changed to “The Politics & Journalism Semester” in
1997, to underscore its educational purpose.
Founding the Center was Terry
Michael, who had worked for several
years as a newspaper reporter and 17 years as a political press secretary,
at the state
legislative, congressional, national party committee and presidential
campaign levels. “My own career had spanned the
period of transition from a largely party-based, to a more candidate-centered,
media-driven politics,” Michael has explained. “As part of the first generation
of modern political press secretaries, I knew it was important for
the interpreters of politics to have a better understanding of a
process that was increasingly one of strategic communication.”
Joining Michael in incorporating the Center were the late Sen. Paul
Simon of Illinois, who operated a chain of weekly newspapers before
he went into politics, and the late Charles Puffenbarger, a former
Washington Evening Star and Washington Post editor, who taught journalism
at The George Washington Univ. Thirty-seven weeks after the proposal was written, the first class
of 13 students arrived in Washington in the Fall of 1989.
Having produced almost 600 “graduates” in its first 25 years,
with over 450 volunteer speakers and hundreds of individual and institutional
donors, and with scores of participating colleges and news bureaus,
the Center has an extended “family” of more than a thousand
men, women and institutions dedicated to improving the quality of political journalism.
Alumni of the program are at work in news rooms around the nation
and the world.
The Center may be the only 501(c)(3) in America to publish not only
a complete listing of every donation it receives, but also a detailed
accounting of every expenditure. “If we purchase something as small as a box of
labels or as large as a new computer,” Michael
notes, “there is a line-item in our annual report for each
disbursement. Our donors deserve to know exactly how their
money is being spent.”
Michael, who continues to staff The Politics & Journalism Semester
as its executive director, explains that, “We have always been
a small operation with a big mission. We intend to stay focused on
our one effort, to educate future generations of men and women who
interpret politics, so that citizens can be educated for their civic