Jeff Zeleny covering the Democratic Presidential Debate

Senior Washington Correspondent


Jeff Zeleny has a front row seat to history.

Since he graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications in 1996, he was on a Pulitzer Prize-winning team, covered five presidential elections for major news organizations and has flown on Air Force One with both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

He’s worked for the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, ABC News and is currently the Senior Washington Correspondent for CNN.

When people ask him how he got from a farm in Exeter, Nebraska, to where he is today, he credits hard work and the power of his Nebraska brand.

“The power of your Nebraska brand is strong,” Zeleny said. “It means hardworking and humble, honest and humane. Your Nebraska roots are an irreplaceable part of your brand.”

During his time at the CoJMC, Zeleny was the editor of the Daily Nebraskan, the university’s newspaper, and held internships at Wall Street Journal and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“The classroom experience mixed with the professional experience I got at the college and the Daily Nebraskan really prepared me for what I do now,” he said.

His first job after college was at the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, where he got his start covering presidential campaigns in the 2000 Iowa caucuses. From there he went to work as a reporter on the metropolitan desk at the Chicago Tribune, where he was on the a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting team that documented gridlock in the nation’s air traffic system.

He was then promoted to National Political Correspondent at the Tribune. In this position he covered the early years of the Bush administration and the 2004 election. From the Tribune, he went to The New York Times and covered the 2008 and 2012 elections and President Obama’s early years in the White House.

In 2013, Zeleny moved to ABC News as the Senior Washington Correspondent and covered Congress, the 2014 midterm elections and the Republican Party as it gained control of the Senate. He also reported from Ferguson, Missouri, as people protested the Michael Brown shooting.

Nowadays, Zeleny can be seen on CNN almost nightly covering the 2016 presidential election.

“It was luck, and it was acting on that luck (that got me here),” he said, “and not being intimidated by setbacks or failures.”

Zeleny encourages young journalists to expose themselves to foreign experiences wherever they are to find inspiration.

“Find something that intrigues you, inspires you, excites you and then go after it. Work harder than anyone expects you to.”