Hill Climbers: Quick Start

Posted April 2, 2010 at 1:54pm

Megan Whittemore said she “hit the ground running” in becoming deputy press secretary in the leadership office of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.). That description seems pretty apt, considering her first week came right in the middle of the final health care showdown.

[IMGCAP(1)]In hindsight, the staffer said it was actually a good way to start, inoculating her to Capitol Hill’s pace at the outset of her new job.

As deputy press secretary, Whittemore’s priorities lie with the Old Dominion. Whittemore helps to lead

statewide communications and leadership outreach to Cantor’s 7th district.

“I am definitely looking forward to connecting what we do and what the Congressman does here in Washington back home to show how his work actually impacts our constituents and the people back home,” Whittemore said.

Whittemore comes to Capitol Hill fresh off a two-year stint as a research producer for “Fox News Sunday.” During the 2008 presidential election, Whittemore traveled the country producing live shows on the road. In the final throes of the primary season, Whittemore produced live shows at Republican debate forums. When the general election battle unfolded, Whittemore helped produce the network’s live coverage from the Democratic National Convention in Denver and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

In addition to working closely with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Whittemore interacted with many other high-profile Fox personalities and correspondents, including Brit Hume.

“I was very fortunate, and it was a phenomenal experience,” she said. “To have the editorial input to say, ‘What are the issues that people care about, and what questions should we be asking, and what are we looking for in the next president of the United States?’ … It really was pretty heated all the way from Super Tuesday until election night.”

After the 2008 election came to a close, Whittemore had several opportunities to come to Capitol Hill for Fox, including covering several Cantor events (a connection that would later come in handy), President Barack Obama’s first Congressional address and the 2010 State of the Union.

That editorial experience combined with Whittemore’s educational pursuits — she is currently earning a master’s in political management from George Washington University — made her want a career change.

[IMGCAP(2)]”Graduate school has been a process that’s really helped me figure out what I’m really interested in,” she said. “I think that kind of went hand in hand with my television experience to make me realize that I wanted to be more involved in the political side of things.”

But Whittemore had an interest in communications long before the start of her professional career. Back home in New Jersey, Whittemore attended a communications academy, which allowed her to interact with television and radio studios as a high school student.

“The school opened up a whole new field to me at a young age,” Whittemore said. “I really enjoyed telling a story and the visual dynamic of television and broadcasting. That was kind of what originally got me interested in communications.”

As an undergraduate at GW, Whittemore worked across Washington’s media scene, including stints as a Fox freelance producer and gigs with the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation and Cox Broadcasting.

In 2008, Whittemore graduated from GW with degrees in political communications and dance. Even though Whittemore’s day-to-day use for the second degree isn’t apparent, a few minutes of conversation with the staffer makes her passion evident.

Whittemore started dancing as a 5-year-old ballerina and seriously pursued the craft throughout college, to include modern, jazz and hip-hop dance styles. Part of Whittemore’s college tuition even came from dance, as she received a Presidential Arts Scholarship for dance to attend GW.

“It’s always been a creative outlet for me and something that I’ve enjoyed personally and it’s also great physical activity,” she said. “For me, it’s always been nice to be a cultural mind in a political city. There’s so much culture in D.C., and it’s nice to have a connection with people who are interested in international culture or their own cultures.”

Neither television nor Capitol Hill could force Whittemore to give up dancing. The staffer continues to work with GW dance alumni on occasional performances throughout Washington. Recently, the group was commissioned by the Kennedy Center for a fall performance on the Millennium Stage.

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