Jessica Yellin

Jessica Yellin

Jessica Yellin, an award-winning television journalist, credits her late father, Ira, for inspiring her career path.

“I grew up in a Jewish family and my dad was the son of an Orthodox rabbi. He always taught us about tikkun olam and having an obligation to do something good for the world. He always wanted to be a politician and we always watched the news around the table while I was growing up,” said Yellin, 45, and a native of Los Angeles.

Yellin will discuss her career and the role of the media in the upcoming presidential election during the National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland’s 122nd opening meeting from 11 a.m. to

2 p.m. Sept. 14. The meeting will be held at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, 23737 Fairmount Blvd. in Beachwood.

After graduating from Harvard University, Yellin worked as an intern at the White House in Washington, D.C. She recalled being shocked to discover how many staffers at the White House paid close attention to what news reporters were talking about on television.

“CNN used to be on in every room at that time and those CNN reporters seemed to have a lot of influence,” she said. “I always thought they weren’t covering the policies that mattered. Instead of working in politics, I thought I could do more good by watching the politicians.”

Yellin began her broadcast career in 1998 as a general assignment reporter for Central Florida News 13 in Orlando, Fla. Since then, she’s reported for CNN, ABC News and MSNBC. She also served as the chief White House correspondent for CNN.

One of the highlights of her career, Yellin said, came in November 2000 when she was covering politics for a TV station in Tampa. She was sent to Tallahassee, Fla., to cover a senate race when the Florida presidential election recount was announced.

“I was at the Democratic headquarters in Florida in 2000. At one point all the television stations called the presidential race for Al Gore, then a little while later it called for George Bush, then it said it all hinged on Florida,” Yellin said.

“I waited until 2 a.m., went to bed, and at 5:30 a.m. my boss called me and said ‘don’t come home, go to the secretary of state’s office.’ So I stayed down there for 33 days watching the entire universe shift focus to the very ground I was standing on.”

While Judaism may not have had a direct influence on her career, Yellin said her faith has impacted her personal values, which in turn have shaped the way she approaches journalism.

“It’s a Jewish tradition to be questioning everything all the time. That helps as a journalist because you maintain your skepticism in all things. I also have an appreciation for debate. People who disagree with you aren’t bad, they’re just coming from a different place. If you keep talking it through maybe you can find some common ground,” she said.

During NCJW’s opening meeting, Yellin said she plans to talk about the current political environment in the country, what people should watch for in the closing few days of the presidential race, women in politics, and the role the media play in covering election season.

“The voters are the people who matter in this country. I want them to feel like they’re adequately informed and feel empowered to get themselves informed and know where to get information. I’d like to address whatever confusion they have to the best of my ability and then also sort of give them ideas about where they can get more information,” she said.

Yellin, who left CNN in October 2013, is writing a novel about a young White House correspondent. A publishing date has not yet been announced.

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