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Chris Donovan SPA-SOC/BA '97: Getting the Story Right Through Research

Chris Donovan

“I learned so many of the important skills of research and accuracy at AU. I had some tough professors who pushed the importance of getting it right and telling the story right.”
Growing up in New Hampshire, with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Chris Donovan was indoctrinated with politics from a young age. When it came time to decide on a college, he knew he wanted to go to Washington – and American University stood out.

“There was a different environment here with a great mixture of academics and professionals who had long careers [elsewhere] and came to teach,” Donovan said. “What I loved about the school was that I had a CNN reporter, a Washington Post editor, a former congressional staffer, and congressional experts as professors. They were people who had success and excellence in their fields and often the practical experience to go along with it. It made a big difference in learning the trade and the ability to have internships like I did.”

Donovan was a double major in journalism and CLEG (Communications, Law, Economics, and Government) and interned for three semesters at NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He worked alongside legendary host Tim Russert; Russert joked that Donovan would be the next top executive of his home state of New Hampshire and nicknamed him “The Governor.”  

On campus, Donovan worked at The Eagle, AU’s student-run newspaper, and served as a resident assistant in Anderson Hall. After graduation, he took positions at the Department of Justice and C-SPAN and also conducted research for the Almanac of American Politics. He returned to NBC in 2000 as a researcher and spent years as the editorial content producer for “Meet the Press.” Donovan moved to ABC in 2014, where he now is an executive editorial producer working with George Stephanopoulos and other network anchors and correspondents.

To prepare for big newsmaker interviews and political debates, Donovan does extensive research and also tries to put current events into their appropriate historical contexts. He has helped produce interviews with the last four U.S. presidents, all major presidential candidates over the last five election cycles, Supreme Court justices, world leaders, and celebrities.

“I'm always trying to think of questions to get to the truth and provide new information to our viewers. It’s cliché to say, but news is about new information. I’m trying to read everything I can about the interview subject and then think about what hasn’t been asked or what hasn’t been contributed,” said Donovan. “That’s what Tim Russert and the classes at SPA taught me. It’s all about the details.”