Pickler was born in Flint, Michigan to Donald and Marcy Pickler. She grew up in Rector, Arkansas, and later moved to Burton, Michigan, where she attended Bentley High School. In 1998, she graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. In 2007 she married Eric Conner, an employee of Fox News.
Pickler was hired by the Detroit offices of Associated Press shortly after graduating from Michigan State University. In March 2000, she transferred from the Lansing bureau to the Washington, D.C. bureau where she won the annual John L. Dougherty Award for her work covering Michigan's congressional delegation.
AP promoted Pickler to cover national political issues in December 2002. She was the lead reporter covering the Democratic Party candidates in the 2004 United States Presidential Election. In her coverage of the race, she acknowledged having misquoted Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. In June 2004, an article by Pickler on higher education costs was criticized by the Columbia Journalism Review for accepting Bush advisor Steve Schmidt's criticism of John Kerry as fact without evaluating the accuracy of Schmidt's claim, which CJR found to be misleading.
After that election, Pickler worked as a White House correspondent until September 2006, leaving to cover national politics, including the 2008 United States Presidential Election. President Bush bid her farewell personally, saying: "Nedra, baby, I’m gonna miss you. I’m sad you’re leaving." In January,2007 the AP sent her to Indonesia to investigate Senator Barack Obama's childhood education. She interviewed some of Obama's childhood friends and teachers and reported that, contrary to some rumors then in circulation, he had been educated in Roman Catholic and public schools.
On March 27, 2007, Pickler wrote that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (who had declared his candidacy February 10) had "delivered no policy speeches and provided few details about how he would lead the country" in his campaign up to that point. On July 8, 2008, Pickler wrote an analysis saying that the presumptive presidential nominees, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, had opposite stances on the policy goal of balancing the federal budget by the end of the next presidential term (January 2013). She was criticized for the article in the Columbia Journalism Review.
- "Nedra Pickler, Eric Conner". The New York Times. November 25, 2007. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- Foren, John (June 21, 2008). "Flint -area mom of presidential campaign reporter is plenty proud, says Flint Journal columnist John Foren". Flint Journal.
- Bao, Robert (Spring 2007). "Nedra Pickler: Road to the White House". MSU Alumni Magazine. Michigan State University Alumni Association. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- Bucknell University. 2007 (October). Bucknell Forum. capsule biographies of panelists for session of 18 Oct. 2007
- Welch, Matt. April 2004. Hack Roast. Reason
- Roth, Zachary. 29 Jun 2004 The Mis-Education of Nedra Pickler Columbia Journalism Review
- Austin American-Statesman. 25 September 2006.  A blog by Ken Herman
- Pickler, Nedra (2007-01-24). "Obama challenges allegation about Islamic school". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- Pickler, Nedra (for Associated Press). 27 March 2007. Is Obama All Style and Little Substance?
- Pickler, Nedra (for Associated Press). 8 July 2008. Analysis: Obama won't try for McCain's budget goal.
- Barrett, Liz Cox. 9 July 2008. AP on McCain on Budget Deficit: Points For Trying? Columbia Journalism Review