March 13, 2017 – Perry Bacon, Jr. shared fascinating insights from his unique vantage point as a political observer of American politics and history in a conversation with Congressman John Yarmuth.
ESPN’s fivethirtyeight.com Senior Political Writer Perry Bacon, Jr. has been an eye-witness to and reporter of the dynamic events in American politics since 2002. From the rise of tribalism, or hyper-partisanship, the growing connection between celebrity and political success, and the changing landscape of the media environment created by technology. Perry has reported on the most important political developments that have shaped our nation over the past decade and a half.
Describing himself as a “super nerdy kid,” never far from a book or magazine when he was growing up in Louisville, his passion for sports and politics began drawing him toward journalism. From Brook & Breck, the newspaper he co-edited while attending Male High School, to a stint at The Courier-Journal and Louisville Cardinal, his hometown experiences laid the foundation for his lifework.
In his senior year of high school Tomago Collins, a copy editor at The Courier-Journal, asked Perry about his college plans. After listing several universities and telling Collins his SAT scores, Collins, himself a Yale graduate, encouraged Perry to dream bigger.
That conversation led Perry to apply to Yale, where part of the admissions process was an interview with an alum. That was how he met John Yarmuth. A few months after that meeting, Perry was accepted and his friendship with John Yarmuth began.
For a young man whose mother had an associates’ degree (she has since earned her BA), and his father no degree at all, getting into Yale was a very big moment in the family’s life.
From Yale, Perry recounts that he had “some great fortune.” He was hired at TIME magazine’s Washington office at a time when they were seeking younger (cheaper) staffers. So at age 23, he found himself flying on Air Force One. On one trip he’d drifted off to sleep when he startled awake to someone yelling, “Mr. Bacon! Mr. Bacon!” It was Ari Fleischer, the president’s press secretary, urging him awake so he could begin the press briefing.
In his career, he’s witnessed many remarkable moments in American history. From the post 9/11 era, to the rise of Obama, and the emergence of the Tea Party and Donald Trump as a political candidate, Perry Bacon has had the opportunity both write for print and report on television. As he says, “My goal has always been to be clear in explaining to people what is happening and why.”