NY Times Reporter Says Trump 'Reinvigorated Newsrooms'
Most journalists are used to being criticized over a story. But New York Times political correspondent Amy Chozick was excited when future president Donald Trump called her a “third rate reporter” on Twitter during the 2016 election cycle.
“You might think the leader of the free world calling out individual reporters is bad for journalism,” Chozick told an audience on Thursday. “But actually, this is the best thing to happen for journalism in a long time. Not just because I got a lot of new Twitter followers, but because Donald Trump has really… reinvigorated newsrooms.”
Chozick delivered the 2017 William Randolph Hearst Lecture on Thursday to a crowd of about 260 in the Belo Center for New Media’s second-floor auditorium. She covered Hillary Clinton and the Clinton campaign since July 2013. Before that, she covered the 2008 campaigns of Barack Obama and Clinton for The Wall Street Journal.
“Covering a presidential campaign is exactly as exciting and exhausting as it sounds,” said Chozick, who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2001. “I think short of covering wars or global conflict it’s the most adrenaline-infused, most all-consuming thing you can do.”
Despite the thrill of political reporting, Chozick said it might seem more exhilarating than it actually is.
“I know it sounds very glamorous to be flying around with a candidate, and it is an incredibly cool thing to do,” Chozick said. “But you’re mostly eating soggy sandwiches on a cramped campaign bus and fighting over internet Wi-Fi.”
Chozick had the opportunity to see differences between Clinton’s two presidential campaigns. Chozick shared stories of Clinton drinking wine with reporters and calling the reporters’ significant others on Valentine’s Day to apologize for keeping them apart during her 2008 campaign. In 2016, Chozick said, Clinton had a more guarded attitude toward the press.
“This caution made the real Hillary an enigma in some ways,” Chozick said. “I tried to cover the complete person. I think any candidate, Republican, Democrat, you have to get beyond the caricature.”
In giving advice to a crowd of mostly first-year journalism students, Chozick recalled her “nontraditional” path to success.
“One thing I really credit my journalism career to is relationships,” Chozick said. “They’re about getting to know people, seeing what you can do for them and eventually asking what they can do for you, which usually involves getting a job. But once you get the job, being a journalist is completely based on your relationships.”
Becoming a journalist is easier today than it was 16 years ago, according to Chozick. She mentioned her former colleague Brian Stelter, who was a college student breaking news on his blog when he caught the attention of The New York Times.
“I’m actually envious of all of you because the barriers of entry … are a lot lower than they were in my day,” Chozick said. “No one is stopping you from publishing your work on Medium, building up a Twitter following on your own and getting editors’ attention that way.”
Amid criticisms of the press from the president and the public, Chozick is also seeing a time where some are respecting journalism more.
“Despite what you may have heard about ‘the failing New York Times,’ we now have 3 million print and digital subscribers, the most we’ve ever had in our history,” Chozick said. “People are actually excited about journalism and realizing there’s need to pay for it.”
Though journalism has shifted from emphasizing physical print news, Chozick notes that there is no less need for journalists than before.
“It is competitive and you’ve got to be determined and have some sharp elbows sometimes,” Chozick said, addressing students in the audience. “But if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this speech, it’s don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t find a job in journalism. You can, we need you, and you completely got this.”
Sophomore Journalism Major