Q&A with Jim Vickers, Ohio Magazine

Shining a Light on Great Journalism


In this occasional Byliner series, we'll connect with journalists behind winning entries in the All-Ohio Excellence in Journalism Awards. Interviews may have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Q&A with Jim Vickers

first-place winner in the Open: Politics/Government Writing category for his Ohio Magazine story “
Where Does John Kasich Go From Here?

How did you get the idea to do a profile about Ohio Gov. John Kasich?

Jim Vickers:
This story was a departure for us because Ohio Magazine is largely a travel, lifestyle, food & drink magazine, but every once in a while we’ll do a story about a personality. It was our 40th anniversary and we thought, ‘Who is an Ohioan who absolutely everyone would recognize?’ And we said, ‘Well, John Kasich just ran for president. He’s the person who’s probably on everyone’s mind right now.’

Byliner: What was the purpose of the story?

JV: Here's a guy who has served our state for years, starting in Congress in the 80’s, and then was a two-term governor who has to leave because of term limits, who probably could get elected again if he could stay. So we were hoping to just check in and say ‘Hey, you have one year left as governor, what are you working on? What are your thoughts about running for president and how that all worked out,’ and asking, ‘Where does John Kasich go from here?’

Byliner: Was it frustrating that he didn’t really answer that question?

JV: His answer was a big ‘I don’t know,’ essentially. I don’t think he was being coy about it, I think he realized that he still really doesn’t know. But even though he didn't answer that question, I think what works about the story is that it was an examination of, ‘Who is this guy? What does he care about? What is his vision and what are the ideas he talks about?’ One thing which fascinated me was about how the workforce in America is not ready for the future. It’s something I had not thought about that much. It makes you wonder, why don't we talk about this more?

Byliner: What challenges did you have in doing this story and how did you overcome them?

JV: When doing a profile you always ask, who are some people that we could talk to that are close to you, to kind of get perspective on you? And they were slow in getting me people and I didn't really know who to go after. It was one of those things where I asked a few times and I just really didn't get anywhere with it. So I was like, ‘Hmm.’ But one thing I found in the interim was this Congressional archive with all of the materials from his days in Congress at the Westerville Public Library. And it's all boxed up, it's all pretty neatly organized. So I went through that for an entire day. I got the thank you note Tim Russert wrote him after one of his appearances on Meet the Press, the personal letter that Newt Gingrich sent him after they had worked on something together – I believe it was one of the stealth bombers. It was really interesting just seeing these interactions between these people kind of frozen in time, there in a letter, in a thank you note. So I ended up using some of that stuff in the story that I think really kind of brought the past to life a little bit. That was something people reacted to in a way that I wasn't expecting.


Check out Jim’s award-winning article here. Jim welcomes your comments or questions. You can reach him at jvickers@ohiomagazine.com.

Are you a first-place award-winner who would like to be featured in Byliner? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Send us a note at pressclubcle@gmail.com.