John Lievonen

by Kennedy Rose

John Lievonen is trying something new.

Lievonen, a rising senior at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Public Communications, has almost always been a political journalist. With the Dow Jones News Fund and American City Business Journals, he will intern at the South Florida Business Journal and pursue business journalism.

“Now I’m realizing there’s a lot of intersection between politics and business, and that’s more of a niche subject, so that’s something I’m interested in now,” Lievonen said. 

His career in journalism began at The Pawprint — the student newspaper at Boca Raton Community High School. He joined in his sophomore year, and thought he should concentrate on political journalism.

Politics aren’t personal to him; his immersion in the Florida political scene keeps him in the know, but his interest stems from fascination and an obligation to inform people about politics.

“I wouldn’t really call myself political or place myself on a political spectrum,” he said. 

The 21 year old is currently the managing editor of the Florida Political Review, the state’s largest student-run online political magazine. As managing editor, he helps staff writers craft their stories on local and state politics.

Lievonen covered Florida politics ranging from the state’s gubernatorial race to alt-right provocateur Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Florida. 

Lievonen applied for the DJNF/ACBJ internship after receiving an email from the chair of the journalism department at UF, and it will be his first internship. He’s consistently worked at the Florida Political Review and has contributed to The Gainesville Sun and PBS affiliate WUFT. 

He made his way to the University of Florida, four hours away from his home in Delray Beach, Fla. UF had a promising journalism program, and attending an in-state program had its benefits. He’s a journalism major with a concentration in political science. 

“I never thought of going out-of-state,” he said.

He has a passion for learning new things and “falling down the rabbit hole” of research. The best part of it, he said, is that the rabbit hole could come from anywhere — conversations, meeting new people or simply stumbling upon something. 

Herbert Lowe, a professor at UF, said Lievonen has a drive that’s unique to journalism students. 

“He didn’t make the same mistakes,” Lowe said. “Or I never felt he was trying to take the easy way out, and I have every confidence that he would be successful this summer.”

A former marathon and triathlon participant, Lievonen likes to stay active. But being a managing editor of a magazine and a college student makes training for those races difficult, he said. 

He doesn’t find the “zen” in running like other runners do. Lievonen said it feels great to win a race and to make friends while running, but that the physical action of running was the least desirable part of the activity. 

“I found running to be a bonding or community experience,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily that I found enjoyment in running.”

His favorite television show, “Billions,” focuses on Wall Street and white-collar crime. He also hate-watches “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” which he maintained he would never turn on himself.  

He’ll be living at home for the summer with his parents, working at the South Florida Business Journal that covers the Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. 

Working for Bloomberg or The Wall Street Journal is his dream, but he said he won’t limit his options. Lowe said Lievonen is unique in having specific aspirations as a student journalist, as many young journalists are unsure of what they want to pursue. 

“John is after a career,” Lowe said.