Journalist Pete Williams kicks off his week-long JCU residency with documentary screening


John Carroll University

Managing Editor Laken Kincaid has the latest scoop on journalist Pete Williams recent arrival to JCU

Laken Kincaid, Managing Editor

On Jan. 27, John Carroll University announced that national political journalist Pete Williams, who recently retired following a long career at NBC News, would be the university’s official “journalist-in-residence” for the foreseeable future. Williams, who served as NBC’s official reporter on the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court of the United States for approximately 29 years, is expected to be on campus for one week a semester going forward “guest lectur[ing]” and “mentor[ing] students.”

Williams worked at the NBC news desk between 1993 and 2022 under both Tim Russert, one of John Carroll’s most famous alumni and the longest serving moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Chuck Todd, the current moderator of the program. On his beat, Williams reported on major court cases like the Dobbs decision and judicial affairs including various appointments. 

“I was not expected to just report the press releases from the justice department,” Williams stated during an on-campus presentation on Tues. Feb. 14. “I had to go out and get the facts. With the Supreme Court, we are all on equal footing. We can all read the briefs. We can all hear the oral argument. The art in covering the Supreme Court is knowing what cases to cover.”

Williams’ ties to JCU derive from his ties with Russert. Williams was recruited by Russert to the station after a successful political career as a legislative assistant to Dick Cheney and as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs under President George H.W. Bush. Before his time in Washington, Williams also served as a local journalist at  KWTO radio and television stations in Casper, Wyoming where he first honed his craft. 

“When you’re a spokesperson, you’re an advocate,” Williams continued. “Your job is to present their views and talk about why they’re so wonderful. I told Cheney I am not sure I can do this. My job at NBC was not to be an advocate; it is to be a neutral observer and not say who I think should win.”

However, along with his connection to Russert, Williams  has also visited campus previously to deliver the 2021 commencement speech and to receive an honorary degree. 

“My connection to John Carroll University is one of its most revered graduates, Tim Russert, who hired me to work at NBC,” Williams told the official JCU newsroom. “He was my boss and friend for 15 years before he died [in 2008]. Tim was proud of his Jesuit education – a values-based education meant to train young people to influence the moral tone of our society. I feel grateful to do my part in carrying on Tim’s impactful legacy together with the JCU community.”

On Mon. Feb. 13, Williams started his residency by sitting in on a lunch with graduating seniors in the Political Science department, speaking to a few classes across campus, touring the television studio and attending the first public screening of “Tim Russert: The John Carroll Years.” This documentary, which was created by JCU grad and friend of Russert, Linda Meglin ‘74 interviewed friends and professors of Russert who knew him during his John Carroll tenure and as a student on campus. 

Over fifty members of the JCU community watched the film in the Donahue Auditorium which was followed by a Q&A session with both Meglin and Williams. Both parties discussed their individual experiences with Russert, bringing tears to the eyes of both the speakers and the audience. Questions from the room ranged from those about personal experiences with Russert to inquiries into the world of journalism as a whole. 

“I am here because of my connection with Tim,” Williams said. “He gave me a job. I wrote his obituary [for NBC] so it felt like a bookend to my experience with him.”

Williams will be continuing his guest appearances in classes and lectures across campus for the remainder of the week. His itinerary includes multiple lunches with students and a tour of WKYC Channel 3 Studios. The schedule for when Williams will return to campus for his residency in the fall is to be determined.