Newhouse senior finds inspiration covering the White House

Ghael Fobes
With the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop, senior Ghael Fobes stands outside the NBC News offices in Washington, D.C.

Ghael Fobes is about to graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in broadcast and digital journalism (BDJ), but he’s not on campus.

He’s interning for NBC in Washington, covering the White House.

“It’s incredibly humbling,” Fobes says. “I feel a responsibility to make sure I’m well prepared every day for whatever might come our way.”

And what is it that comes Fobes’ way on the average day? “Much of what I do involves rapidly pushing information [from] the President or Press Secretary Jen Psaki out to different teams within NBC. I just joined in January so I’m still very much learning, but so far I’ve enjoyed helping compile the research that our reporters and anchors use to ask questions and prepare for their TV hits.”

Fobes was born in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, the son of one of the first women ever to work on an oil rig. When he reached school age, he went to live with his father, a writing and rhetoric professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He spent his summers at camp in Bridgton, Maine, where he indulged his “obsession” with the outdoors. Then he received a full scholarship to the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, where he discovered his love for journalism, founding the school’s weekly 10-minute newscast, “L10.”

“There was something about my community in boarding school that made me want to share it with the world,” Fobes says of the motivation to start the newscast. “Some of the most talented and inspiring young people I had ever met were churning out stories that I felt needed amplifying. I felt that coverage in the school newspaper would not fully capture the zeal of the place.”

He also anchored and produced the show, and in that role interviewed Alibaba’s Joe Tsai; New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat; Admiral James Stavridis; Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner; and CNN’s Marcus Mabry and Julian Zelizer.

“My passion for storytelling took off… When looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to build upon what I learned in high school about storytelling and leading organizations.”

Fobes’ decision to go to Newhouse was fueled largely by a chance meeting with the man who would one day lead the White House administration Fobes is now covering. On his way back from touring Syracuse University in 2016, Fobes and his uncle heard on the radio that Hillary Clinton was holding an event in Scranton with then-Vice President and Syracuse University alumnus Joe Biden. They decided to take a detour and attend the event.

“When my turn came to meet Biden, I told him about our tour of SU,” Fobes says. “Amazed by the coincidence, [he] encouraged me to apply.”

Once at the Newhouse School, Fobes dedicated himself to learning as much as he could from his professors, and credits BDJ professor of practice Les Rose with teaching him how to put people at ease while interviewing them, and never forgetting what it’s like to be on the other side of the microphone.

“What might seem like a routine day for you covering someone’s big triumph—or, God forbid, tragedy—you have got to remember that most people don’t get to share their story with the world,” Fobes says. “Treat each subject with the same attention and focus you would if they were the President or the Pope.”

“Ghael is whip-smart, madly skilled, quite kind, patient and has a phenomenal work ethic instilled deep in his DNA,” Rose says. “In our classes, whether he was an IA [Instructional Assistant] or a student, he would do things I needed help with before I could ask for it. I’ve had plenty of great students, several fantastic students… but Ghael is that rare student you wish you had a dozen of.”

Attending school and trying to intern during a pandemic brought many challenges, but Fobes sees the bright side of the situation. The ability to go remote meant he could both attend school and work as an intern year-round. “I began as an in-person intern in the summer of 2019 and then transitioned to a remote [intern] mid-semester in spring of 2020 while I was [enrolled in the Newhouse NYC program]. Ever since March of 2020 I’ve been working remotely for NBC News/MSNBC.”

Cheryl Brody Franklin, director of the Newhouse NYC program, remembers Fobes fondly. “When I first met Ghael as a sophomore, I thought he was a graduate student because he was so professional,” Franklin says. “I can’t wait to watch his career after he graduates because I know he is destined for incredible success.”

Now, Fobes is back to working in person at NBC’s Washington bureau. While the position he’s in now is an internship, Fobes is looking forward to working full-time covering politics. He says he loves “breaking down complicated subjects; learning from some of the smartest and most humble producers and reporters you could ever meet; and mentoring and guiding new interns through the ropes of applying to and joining the company.”

When asked for his advice to students just starting out, his simple response is, “Be kind to one another. You might be pressured to feel like this industry is a competition or a comparison contest—it’s way more collaborative than that.”

The Newhouse School is the right place for Ghael. Learn more about why it’s the right place for you, too.