Wayzata H.S. Alum Samantha Schmidt Writes for the Washington Post Morning Mix Team

Pick up or click on a copy of the Washington Post and you’re likely to see the byline of Wayzata High School alum Samantha Schmidt. Schmidt graduated from Wayzata in 2012 and earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. She then headed to the New York Times Journalism Institute, where she participated in a fellowship aimed at students of color. From there, she went to work at the Post, where she’s been for a little over a year and a half.

Schmidt knew she wanted to be a journalist since her early years in high school.  She credits Wayzata schools with encouraging students to think about what careers they might want to pursue as early as junior high.  David Motes, who teaches journalism at Wayzata, was an important influence on Schmidt, she says.

One of Schmidt’s significant reporting experiences in high school was interviewing the family of Joseph Brady, a 2011 graduate of Wayzata who took his own life. “There was a lot of stigma about suicide then,” says Schmidt. “There is more open conversation about it now, but at that time, people were uncomfortable with it.”

Schmidt’s career path has been one that many young journalists dream of. The highlight of her college experience, Schmidt says, was working the investigative desk for the Indiana Daily Student, where she covered subjects including sexual assault on campus and issues affecting international students. She also studied abroad in Amman, Jordan.

During her fellowship at the Times, Schmidt quickly became immersed in New York life after having only visited there once. Schmidt worked the Metro desk, where she learned to balance a lot of things at once and how to write for a broader audience, she says.
Now Schmidt is on the Post’s overnight team, which covers breaking news and produces the Morning Mix. “It’s a lot of news that has fallen through the cracks during the day,” says Schmidt.

“The overnight team is fast-paced,” says Schmidt. “I do one to two stories a night, and they’re published first thing in the morning.”

Schmidt covers many stories about immigration. She speaks Spanish fluently. In early 2017, Schmidt  covered what was one of the first high-profile deportations, that of an Arizona mom, Guadalupe Garcia de Reyos.  “When I went to Phoenix to cover Guadalupe’s deportation, I wasn’t sure how much access the family would give me. But her husband and children opened up their home to me for days, giving me an up-close look at what it was like to deal with the deportation of a loved one. I am still grateful for the trust they placed in me."

So far, Schmidt’s biggest story has been covering Hurricane Maria. Says Schmidt, “Covering Hurricane Maria was the most challenging, yet rewarding, assignment of my life. I had never covered a hurricane, had never been to Puerto Rico, and could not have imagined how catastrophic the conditions on the island would be. But Puerto Ricans were desperate to tell the world what they were going through. Even in the most dire of circumstances, the people I met there were incredibly kind, generous and resilient. Because of them, it felt wrong for me to leave the island after two weeks. All I wanted to do was stay in Puerto Rico and continue covering this important story,”

 Schmidt is grateful to Wayzata H.S. for preparing her for the challenge of writing for a major paper. “Wayzata was competitive in a good way,” says Schmidt. “There was no hand-holding.  It was hard to be 'the best' at something, so you really had to work hard.” Schmidt’s advice for aspiring journalists?  She says the advice she was given still stands: Figure out what you’re good at early, and stick with it.”