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From Madison to CNN

March 18, 2024 - Beth Brauer

Alumnus Spotlight: Marc Stewart

Marc Stewart

Early in his college search, Marc Stewart (IR ’95) knew that Michigan State was on his short list.

“I spent a weekend on campus, visiting Case Hall, sitting in on a writing class in James Madison College…That initial visit gave me a good feel for what was there,” said the Bloomfield Hills native.

“James Madison is the secret treasure at Michigan State — it has all the benefits of a small college and the resources of a Big Ten university.”

Today, Stewart is based at CNN’s bureau in Beijing as an international correspondent reporting across the network’s television and digital platforms. Before landing in China, he had worked in newsrooms all over the U.S. — from Lansing, Michigan to Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee to Denver, Colorado to New York City.

In 2018, a chance encounter at a conference he was invited to attend in Singapore changed the trajectory of his broadcasting career, yet Stewart credits his Madison education for laying the foundation.

"Strong writing skills, critical thinking skills and a desire to discover the world — these are skills and qualities emphasized Day One in Madison. Regardless of your profession, these are important skills to have and is what prepared me for my career in journalism,” Stewart said. 

Madison’s unique programming shaped his interests and expertise.

“I remember taking courses with Linda Racioppi and Norm Graham —studying abroad in Brussels where we spent time at NATO and living with a host family that spoke exclusively in French — these were experiences that made the program unique, and the relationships I formed with my fellow JMC students, faculty members and staff, have been invaluable.”

Strong writing skills, critical thinking skills and a desire to discover the world — these are skills and qualities emphasized Day One in Madison. Regardless of your profession, these are important skills to have and is what prepared me for my career in journalism.”  

Stewart says he’s always amazed by the number of people he runs into from James Madison, not to mention MSU. Whether it’s the guy wearing an MSU sweatshirt walking down a Tokyo street — where Stewart lived for eight months prior to obtaining his VISA to work in China — or an encounter with a fellow Spartan in the U.S., Stewart is always grateful for the kinship he’s found in Spartans across the globe.

Marc reporting from a street
Marc Stewart reports on China's population decline from Shenzhen, China from CNN This Morning.


While his work has taken him around the world to some of the most densely populated cities and to remote, rural communities within U.S., each experience has provided him with important insights.

“Working in so many politically diverse states helped me better understand how people think,” said Stewart.

From about the age of 12, Stewart recalls wanting to be a journalist, but it was his time spent at MSU and the study abroad program in Brussels that encouraged him in ways he hadn’t anticipated. 

“MSU as a whole encouraged me to explore how this world is very big and to take advantage of the many different opportunities out there,” Stewart said.

Opportunity came knocking during his time in Tennessee and later in Denver as he completed multiple international reporting fellowships in North Korea, South Korea and in China, which is why he was invited to Singapore in 2018 where he found himself seated beside a reporter from the business news outlet Bloomberg. She told him about a master’s program in business and economic journalism at New York University.

He was sold. 

More than 20 years after earning his bachelor’s degree at MSU, Stewart moved from Denver to New York to enroll as a full-time student in NYU’s joint program in the Stern Business School and the journalism department, graduating just before COVID hit the U.S.

With a new degree in hand, Stewart soon had an offer from the Wall Street Journal to move to London to host the morning program “What’s News,” which examined the news of the day from a business lens.

After nearly two years, he moved back to New York, doing freelance work for NPR’s Here & Now and Newsy. CNN initially invited Stewart on as a guest commentator to explain what was going on with the economy.

Marc reporting
Marc Stewart reports from G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan.


“One appearance led to another, and then I was approached with an offer to work as a CNN correspondent overseas,” said Stewart.

In the span of five years, Stewart went from working as a newscaster for news stations in mid-size domestic markets to major outlets in London, New York City, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

During his career, he’s interviewed some big names like President Obama. And, more recently, conducted one-on-one interviews with Japan’s Foreign Minister, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Stewart has covered some of the biggest stories in Asia: the 2023 G7 Summit in Hiroshima, the lifting of COVID restrictions in China and the release of treated radioactive wastewater from a nuclear power plant in Japan where he was given rare access to the facility.

Oh, and he co-hosts CNN’s Marketplace Asia. 

No, writing this story hasn’t been intimidating at all. 

Stewart has seen and done so much in such a short window of time, yet there’s no sign that he will slow anytime soon. 

How does he avoid burnout? News consumption is not for the faint of heart.

"You have to be aware of what is happening in the world because there’s always someone who is touched by what is happening,” Stewart said. “There are difficult images and narratives — I have colleagues in war zones. But if you are a reporter, having that awareness is in your DNA. I don’t view it as a big chore because it is what I am interested in.”

Stewart also runs every other day.

“It is the mental reset I need. I like the routine, too. With this job, there isn’t a lot of that.”

No day is ever the same says Stewart. About 75% of his job is preparation. To be a journalist is to be a student forever researching, going to different sources, vetting out what’s been said or done already, consulting with translators, reading editorials. The list goes on.

You have to be aware of what is happening in the world because there’s always someone who is touched by what is happening.”

marc in a car factory
Marc Stewart reports from the floor of the NIO Electric Car factory in Hefei, China for CNN Marketplace Asia.


And although Stewart is enthralled by the sheer volume of people and topics he must study, he finds “everyday folks most interesting,” and “the best kind of story are those that teach him something new.”

His advice to aspiring journalists:

Hard work pays dividends. It may not be on the timetable you want, but it does pay off.

There’s no direct career path to put you into journalism.

Internships will give you the experience to do a lot of different things.

Always get out of your comfort zone and do what is hard. That’s what gives me confidence when I cover international relations between the U.S. and China.

But most of all, says Stewart, pursue “a diverse education about many different topics, building on the basics — strong writing, strong analytical skills and a curiosity of the world.”

And when you make it back to Michigan, be sure to soak up the leaves.


Photos courtesy of Marc Stewart and CNN.