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How White House correspondent April Ryan figures out the right questions to ask

And other tips from a journalist on Washington’s front lines.

How White House correspondent April Ryan figures out the right questions to ask
[Photo: Jared Soares]

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our feature, “Secrets of 13 of the most productive people.” See the complete 2018 list here.

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If I have to do the morning show, I get up two hours prior and study and look at stories to make sure that I know what I’m talking about. I’m on the phone quite a bit. I talk to congressional leaders and call people in different communities, formulating what I’m going to ask [during a White House press briefing], and how I’m going to ask it. It’s all about the information you obtain. The right questions can help put something on the table and change procedures and policy. For 17 years I asked every president about black farmers who had been denied assistance from the Department of Agriculture, and during the Obama years–coming out of a recession–they got their settlement [at least partly], because I kept asking those questions. We’re missing those stories now. Instead, we’re getting Russia, sex, lies, and videotape. This is not a soap opera. This is not a reality TV show. This is real life, with real consequences, and people are counting on the press.

I’m a hard worker, and I will do what it takes. My mother was a hard worker. She taught me about being proud of myself. She’d say, “Don’t ever apologize for who you are.” My dad just died in August. He gave me my courage, just in the way he walked. He was a successful business owner, and he challenged the system. I picked it up.

Time she gets up

Around 5 a.m.

First thing she does in the morning

“Grab my phone and look at my text messages. Then I make breakfast and wake up my daughters, who are 16 and 10. I take them to school.”

Productivity tools

“I use the Cozi app for my schedule. And the CNN and Washington Post apps for news.”

Mantra

“One of my favorite songs is ‘Hate On Me’ by Jill Scott. ‘Hate on me / ‘Cause my mind is free / Feel my destiny / So shall it be.’ Yaass!”

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What she does while commuting

“My vehicle is my mobile office. I have a long commute–two hours. So I do interviews, I talk to my sources, get the lay of the land.”

Lunch routine

“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, let’s do lunch.’ I don’t have time to do lunch. I’m sitting in the White House, figuring out a podcast, working on stories. I’m that girl who runs up the street, grabs a bag lunch, and brings it back to eat it.”

What she does with 15 minutes of free time

“Lie down and watch an old movie.”

Best habit

“I’ve got a great work ethic.”

Worst habit

“I am so disorganized!”

Last thing she does at night

“I thank God, turn on the news, make sure we’re at peace. There’s so much upheaval during the day. I didn’t realize I was looking for peace as much as I’ve been lately.”

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Time she goes to bed

“If I’m not going on [with] Don Lemon [she joined CNN as a political analyst in 2017], I can get to bed about 9 or 10 p.m.”

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