‘It might as well be me’: Medill alum Omar Jimenez takes the CNN newsroom by storm


Photo courtesy of Omar Jimenez

Omar Jimenez is a CNN national correspondent based in New York City, who achieved public acclaim in 2020 after being arrested for his coverage of the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis.

Simone Garber, Reporter

Content warning: This story contains mentions of death.

Whether on or off the court, Omar Jimenez (Medill ’15) is consistently on his game. 

The nationally-renowned CNN correspondent didn’t get to where he is today without thinking on his feet, a skill he honed through balancing his roles as a Northwestern student and varsity basketball player. Even now, his work-life balance is a juggling act, but it wasn’t something he learned overnight.

“You’ve just got to be honest with what your schedule is going to be,” Jimenez said. “If you’re honest with your friends about what you can and can’t do, everybody’s happier in the end.”

For Jimenez, who grew up in Atlanta, becoming a Wildcat wasn’t initially in the cards during his college search. But he said his complementary passions for journalism and basketball ultimately pushed him to attend NU. 

A CNN internship after his sophomore year inspired him to commit himself to journalism, he said.

While Jimenez credits the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications for providing him with a critical journalistic framework, he said real-world experience has been one of his most valuable tools for success. After his nationally-televised arrest in 2020 during a Minneapolis protest over the death of George Floyd, he put that experience to use.

A man reporting to a camera in front of a smoky horizon.
Omar Jimenez stands in front of a line of police officers, reporting for CNN. He is a Medill alum and recently came back to speak for the News Literacy Project. (Photo courtesy of Omar Jimenez)

“There was the attention of the world on me,” Jimenez said. “It brought so much more exposure to the story. I was trying to incorporate some of my personal experiences into my professional (experiences) without sullying the professional product.”

Off the screen, friends and colleagues emphasized Jimenez’s ability to connect with others and make an impression on those he meets, both personally and professionally. 

Medill Prof. Patti Wolter called Jimenez naturally charismatic.

“(Jimenez) is a super genuine person,” said Wolter, who served as Jimenez’s academic adviser. “It’s part of who he is to seek out relationships with people that end up being meaningful for them and him. I truly think the world of him.”

Jimenez recently relocated from Chicago to the CNN offices in New York City, where he plans to continue reporting and anchoring whenever he can. 

He returned to NU in January to moderate a panel for the News Literacy Project, bringing him face-to-face with current Medill students poised to enter a competitive job market. 

Jimenez attributes his success in the industry and his work ethic to the advice of a colleague during his CNN internship, who said there will always be “one hundred thousand other people” working just as hard as him.

“Those words have really had an impact on how I chase stories and pursue opportunities,” he said. “I just assume that if I don’t go after it, somebody’s going to. So it might as well be me.”

In less formal settings, Jimenez can be found making music, shooting hoops and playing video games.

Longtime friend Nick Petro said he and Jimenez once stayed up all night playing Xbox at the end of their freshman year.

The two met over a decade ago in their freshman orientation group and have remained close ever since, Petro said. In fact, Jimenez will officiate his wedding in 2024.

“(Jimenez) is the type of person I want to surround myself with every day,” Petro said. “I feel like he helps make me a better person.” 

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Twitter: @simonegarber

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