If Rachel Scott could only choose one word to describe her day-to-day duties, it would be “unpredictable.” From flying across the country to break stories to trekking along the campaign trail with political potentials, the Southern Californian tackles the adventures of each new day with a renewed sense of resilience. Scott is ABC’s White House correspondent, and her day-to-day life as a reporter covering one of the most critical — and chaotic — presidential elections of the decade is a wild ride.
As a fan of 60 Minutes while growing up, Scott, now 27, has always been fascinated with staying on top of the country’s most pressing issues. At the dinner table, her family would make it a point to include her in discussions on the latest in news and politics. She credits her family — particularly her grandfather — for encouraging her interest in social justice, which kick-started her on the path to journalism. “My grandfather and I were very close, and I learned a lot about history through his eyes,” Scott says. “My grandfather's grandparents were the last generation born into slavery. Something [he] would always tell me was to take up space, because for so long, he couldn’t exist in certain spaces. He’s inspired me so much to pursue this career.”
I always have to laugh when people say what I do is glamorous.
Just two years ago, Scott was helping producers run graphics as a production associate on Good Morning America. As of July 2020, she’s reporting for GMA as one of ABC’s chief White House and Washington, D.C. news correspondents, and has reported across other multiple well-known platforms including Nightline and 20/20. As a reporter, Scott spends her days workshopping breaking news stories, writing scripts for broadcasting, and conducting interviews and research. Although a typical day of providing press coverage for the White House would be hectic even under normal circumstances, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has made things more complicated. Because news networks rotate which reporters travel with the president on any given day, Scott is now constantly being given same-day tests to determine whether or not she has contracted the coronavirus.
“The pandemic has truly upended the way we conduct journalism in a lot of ways,” says Scott. “I have to turn out a negative test any time I enter a debate hall or rally. We’re always being given hand sanitizer. This is truly something that we’ve never seen before.” Still, Scott is expected to complete her daily duties, quickly pivoting from one last-minute event to another on a moment’s notice. “Some days it feels like drinking from a firehose, with all the whiplash you experience,” she tells Elite Daily, laughing.
Like many others before her, Scott had to put in long hours of hard work to achieve her lifelong goal of becoming a professional journalist. The multi-platform reporter attended school at the University of Southern California, where she graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. After internships at KTLA 5 News and CNN, she transitioned over to ABC News Live as a production associate in 2016 — while also holding a full-time position as a production associate for GMA Digital. She spent years volunteering her time on nights and weekends, waking up during the wee hours of the morning and shooting her own pieces just for the opportunity to have her material and stories appear on live television.
During the early stages of her career, Scott had to constantly remind herself to stop comparing her journey to other people’s, and to just trust her timing and her path. “What people don’t realize is that there are so many failures, and so many challenges behind the scenes,” she tells Elite Daily. “People don’t get to see the moments where I’m on the floor, writing my scripts in the sweltering heat because the doors to the Trump rally haven’t opened yet, you know? Or when there’s a massive downpour five minutes before my live shot, and I’m drenched and I don’t have an umbrella. I always have to laugh when people say what I do is glamorous.”
Trust your gut.
It may not be glamorous, but an upside of the job is getting a firsthand view of history. Over the course of 2020 alone, Scott has delivered in-depth ground coverage of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests on racism and police brutality, as well as provided coverage on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on Black and minority communities. She has also reported on the 2020 presidential primaries in key battleground states, covered President Donald Trump’s impeachment trials, and obtained network exclusive sit-down interviews with Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Iowa.
Scott tells Elite Daily she sometimes has to overcome very difficult obstacles, particularly as a Black journalist covering stories in predominantly white spaces. When reporting on President’s Day weekend last February at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, one of the attendees made an assumption about her role. “[They] asked me if I was a maid,” Scott recollects. Before she could state her position as a reporter for ABC News, “[they] asked me for more towels.” Scott is also extremely aware that many of the people she interacts with on a day-to-day basis have a hard time seeing her occupy space as a Black reporter. “Unfortunately, I’ve been called racial epithets at some political rallies,” says Scott. “I’ve [also] been told that I’m only asking a question, the ‘Black’ question, because I’m a Black reporter.”
Scott admits that providing ground coverage on nation-wide Black Live Matter protests against racism and police violence can also be a heavy emotional burden for her to bear. “I will never forget, I was talking to a 9-year-old boy just outside of the White House,” Scott said, recalling the early summer protests where, on June 1, Trump cleared protesters using tear gas to take a walk to St. John’s Church for a photo-op. “[The boy’s] name was King, and he was carrying a sign. I remember him asking me, ‘I want to be a Black engineer, but will the police kill me before I have a chance to become one?’”
However difficult these moments may be, they keep Scott inspired to continue serving as a representative of the American people — the people who are most harshly affected by the thousands of decisions made for them, but not on behalf of them. “Some people assume that my skin color can make me biased,” Scott says, “but I think my experience as an African American woman in this country helps inform my perspective in covering these stories. Being Black in this country is a lived experience, and it’s one that I understand all too well,” adds Scott. That’s why, whenever she attends key White House press briefings, she reminds herself her duty is not to report to politicians, legislators, or even other journalists — it’s to ask questions and gain perspectives on behalf of the American people.
So, what advice does this trailblazer have for others looking to pursue a career in journalism? As hard as it may be, try not to compare yourself to others. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” Scott tells Elite Daily. “It’s so easy to scroll through social media and become mesmerized by everyone’s ‘highlight reel,’” she adds, calling attention to all of those seemingly effortless moments that just so happen to be perfectly captured on camera. “No two journeys are identical. Don’t become discouraged just because you’re not following directly in someone’s footsteps. Trust your gut.”