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WCP&J The Washington Center for Politics & Journalism - The Politics & Journalism Semester
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About the Center

The 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 responsibilities.”

Washington Center for Politics & Journalism
Address: Post Office Box 15603, Washington, DC 20003
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