Catching up with alumnus Matt Dixon

Alumnus Matt Dixon graduated from Marquette University and the Diederich College of Communication in December of 2007 with a major in journalism and a minor in political science. He is currently a senior national politics reporter for NBC News, based in Florida. His forthcoming book focuses on the relationship between former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as one that has redefined modern Republican politics. Read on to learn more about his writing, experiences and advice for students today.

Where are you, and what are you up to today?

Shortly after graduation, I moved to Florida to pursue a profession in print journalism, which is what I had wanted to do since as far back as I can remember. My first job was in The Villages, which is a massive retirement community just north of Orlando. It is so large it has its own TV station and newspaper, and I covered local government for the paper. Moving from a college campus to a retirement community at the age of 22 exemplifies just how glamorous the media can be when starting out your career. I have stayed in Florida for my entire professional career and am now a senior national political reporter for NBC News. I live in Tallahassee, a place I landed in because it’s the location of Florida’s state Capitol. The job involves a significant amount of travel as the 2024 election cycle kicks into gear, but Tallahassee is my home base. I focus mostly on covering the presidential race, with a slight focus on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign.

What can you tell us about your upcoming book?

The book is wide ranging and dives into a ton of different areas, but the thread that runs through it all is the relationship between DeSantis and former President Donald Trump. The two seemed like close political allies going back to 2017 when Trump endorsed DeSantis and helped make him the governor of Florida, but looks can be deceiving. The book dives into never before told stories and anecdotes to uncover new layers to the relationship that has helped define modern Republican politics.

Where did the inspiration come from?

I had spent so much time covering Florida and DeSantis for daily news outlets, but once he became a more national political figure I was looking for an outlet to dive deeper and write longer about the governor. As I was starting to report out what would become a book manuscript that was initially much more Florida-centered, it became clear that the relationship with Trump was an important element to who he was and his political rise.

What was your process?

This is an interesting question because I am almost finished with the book, and I’m still not sure what my process is. Writing a book, especially your first one, is a messy, chaotic and stressful process, and sometimes it feels like you’re blindly stumbling from one stage to the next. That said, I should not complain too much. It has been an amazing opportunity, and I am very proud of the final product.

The only real piece of advice I have is that if you want to write a book, the best time to start is today. There will never be a good time to start writing a book, so the best course of action is to just start.

What is something that surprised you as you worked on your book?

How much more open people will be to talking when writing a book versus writing a daily news story. People whom I tried to interview for years for my day job opened up for the book project and told me things that I bet they never dreamed they would tell a reporter.

What is your favorite thing about your current role?

I’ve long loved politics, so being in a position where I can both dig into campaigns and try to explain to people what makes them tick is something that will never grow old for me. I loved doing it at the local level when I was just starting out, and the feeling has remained with me as my career progressed and I now get to do it at a national level.

What is your favorite Marquette memory?

I loved the heart of campus at night. I can be a bit of a night owl, so would often be out on campus studying until the very early hours of the morning. Campus is a beautiful place on its own, but when combined with the energy of being right in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, it creates a wonderful atmosphere that I miss to this day.

Is there anything you’d like to share with current students? Any advice or tips?

Don’t let academic setbacks hinder how you view yourself or your potential moving forward. I was not a bad student, but I was never exactly in the running for valedictorian. There were students who were more talented than me and classwork came much easier to them. And while I think those things are important, they are not everything. Work hard and focus on what you want to do once leaving school, and whether you got straight As or not becomes less important to future professional growth.

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