Every year, the American Consulate in Hong Kong makes sure American soldiers serving overseas can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. They provide turkeys and set each soldier up with a host family of expatriates so they can eat Thanksgiving with fellow Americans. For Guy Benson (BSJ ’07), who was born in Saudi Arabia and lived in Hong Kong before moving to New Jersey in the fourth grade, those dinners are an image of America he hasn’t forgotten.
“Getting to meet some of those guys who were serving our country abroad I think stirred my patriotic feelings, even being halfway across the globe,” Benson says.
Those first stirrings of emotion eventually developed into the fiery patriotism that fuels Benson’s career as a conservative political commentator. During his years at Northwestern, Benson, now 26, spent most of his time covering sports for WNUR, but as graduation loomed, he decided he would rather pursue political journalism in order to give back to the country he loves.
“I thought that if in some small way I can persuade and influence people in a positive way that helps advance not just my ideology but also the truth, I thought that was worthy of dedicating decades of my life,” Benson says.
Benson’s career in political commentary now spans blogs, TV and radio. He is the political editor of Townhall.com, a popular conservative political website, and often makes appearances on various conservative radio programs and TV panel discussions. Benson seems to have seen it all when it comes to politics, but the one thing capable of surprising him was when he had an encounter with a current Medill freshman.
“It completely blew my mind, because it doesn’t seem that long ago,” Benson says. “The idea that there’s someone at school graduating a full eight years after me is crazy.”
The passage of time is noticeable, but Northwestern culture, particularly his Medill education, remains an influence on Benson’s day-to-day life.
“Medill doesn’t exist to train and groom pundits, and certainly not conservative ones,” he says. “But more than anything else, Medill trains you to think and write clearly. That’s a skill set that’s not just applicable to straight-up news reporters. I use written and spoken word every day. It’s my currency. It’s my living.”
For the past few months, Benson’s work has focused on the 2012 presidential election. There’s a lot of interest in the Republican primaries, and Benson says election coverage always draws a ton of Internet traffic for Townhall.
Part of that interest came from the chaotic nature of the campaign, which found Republican candidates soaring in polls and then plummeting sharply a few weeks later.
Benson has personally attended nearly every Republican debate and traversed early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina to speak with Republican voters. He found that most voters were still basically undecided.
“Generic Republicans are beating Obama in polls but real Republicans are losing,” Benson says. “We have this very beatable Democratic president who needs to go, but Republicans almost have the junior varsity squad on the field. I think there are many twists to come in this saga. It’s not over yet.”
The streamlined writing techniques Medill teaches aren’t the only parts of his Northwestern experience that remain part of Benson’s life. He still has Northwestern football and basketball games circled on his calendar and tries to get together with other alumni to watch them. Political commentator Keith Olbermann is a living testament to the possibility of a journalism career spent covering both sports and politics, but Benson prefers to preserve sports as a fun distraction.
“I can get together with NU alums and bond over it. Especially in D.C., there are a lot of people rooting for the blue team and a lot of people rooting for the red team, but when the game comes on, they all root for the purple team.”