Journalism Alum Sees Critical Need for Youth Involvement in Politics
By Nora O’Neill, B.S. Journalism 2023
Jake Best, B.S. Journalism 2018, had just finished helping Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff win an election that is partly responsible for giving Democrats control of the Senate.
The win has also made Ossoff — who was 33 when elected in the January 2021 runoff — the youngest and first millennial U.S. Senator.
Best himself is only 24, and even though he has been working in political communications for only three years, he secured a role as the new senator’s press secretary.
Born in West Palm Beach, Florida and raised in Georgia, Best grew up a Gators fan. When he started his classes at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications (CJC), he had plans to be a sports journalist. He spent time participating in a sports media club at the College and writing freelance articles about tennis for a sports newspaper.
But Best caught the political bug after he became involved with the “Gators for Hillary Club” ahead of the 2016 election and worked as an intern for Clinton’s statewide campaign. He said the disappointment he felt after Clinton’s loss served as a sign that politics were extremely important to him and he should pursue a career in political communication. And he felt his experience at the CJC made him equipped to do so.
“The skills you’re learning at the CJC will apply to anything you do, no matter what industry you work in, but especially in politics,” he said. “Good communicators are needed everywhere.”
While still at CJC, Best worked for Ossoff’s congressional campaign as a deputy field organizer. After graduating from CJC — a year early — he served as the communications director for Georgia Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux’s 2018 campaign. In August 2019, Best was hired to be Ossoff’s press secretary.
Best said working for a campaign he was so passionate about was both motivating and energizing. He said the campaign brought together people of all different ages and backgrounds, serving as an inspiring experience for him.
It also has him looking forward to the future of politics and hopes to see more young people get involved in the political process.
“I think more young people getting involved will lead to more creative solutions to the common problems we share,” he said. “Campaigns and politics give young people an exciting, inspirational chance to get involved in our government and make a difference in whichever way one sees fit.”
He believes younger generations are more empathetic of other people’s views and that more young people are needed to work with politicians on every part of the political spectrum. “Young people are less likely to see each other as enemies, as many seem to these days, and I hope as time goes on, we can end the partisan divisions and vitriol and find new ways to get things done,” Best said.
Still, Best recognizes the barriers to entry many face when trying to get into politics, and knows there are still improvements to be made.
“More needs to be done to increase diversity in politics and decrease entry barriers, ending the sometimes typical story of someone with connections getting the job instead of someone who simply didn’t have the ability to move to DC for an unpaid internship.”
His advice for CJC majors wanting to work in politics? Get involved.
“It doesn’t matter how you start, it doesn’t matter what your title is or if you’re being paid or not, just get in the door and work hard and you will be noticed,” he said.
And the things you learn at the CJC will make you stand out.
“If you’re a good writer and you can speak well,” he said, “you’re going to get noticed very quickly on a campaign, and people will want your help.”