By Clayton Hale
On Oct. 13 the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi was graced with an appearance, and interview process, from the Head of Opinion at The New York Times – Katie Kingsbury.
While being led in discussion by the Dean of the School of Journalism and New Media, Andrea Hickerson, Kingsbury gifted a full auditorium with her insight on what being an opinion journalist looks like in today’s modern society.
“Editors, in Opinion, do a couple of things. I mean, in some cases, we’re going out – we’re seeing what’s happening in the news, and [then] we are going out and trying to find the best voice to add clarity and context to it,” Kingsbury said.
Among the bright-eyed, ambitious audience members was freshman Cameron Larkin – who was thrilled with the opportunity to hear Kingsbury speak.
“Sitting and listening to someone as high up in the field of journalism as Katie Kingsbury is something I will remember for the rest of my time at Ole Miss and for the duration of my career in journalism,” Larkin said. “Kingsbury is so knowledgeable about so many of the important aspects of journalism, and it was fascinating to learn the ins and outs of everyday journalism.”
The Head of Opinion went on to give some rather useful advice, including that curiosity was key in successful journalism, to the sea of upcoming writers in the room, while also cracking a joke.
“If you want to be a better writer, I always recommend being a good reader,” Kingsbury said. “Go out and find the writers that you love. Email them – I mean, when they’re alive of course.”
Kingsbury then shared the basic format for submitting an Op Ed, if anyone in the entourage of students felt so inclined.
“We have a general inbox at The New York Times that we actually check,” Kingsbury said. “When you’re pitching an Op Ed, primarily, you should explain why you’re the person to write the op-ed. What is the expertise that you bring to this topic that makes you uniquely suited to write the Op Ed? And I think the next thing to hit would be to explain why you’re writing the Op Ed right now. And then the third thing is a general plan of how you’d like to go about it.”
Kingsbury confessed that all journalists will make errors every now and again. She seemed to take a “it is not about how far you fall, it is about how fast you get up” approach in her response to the audience member’s inquiry on the subject.
“We don’t publish things that are inaccurate to our knowledge, and when we do, we make sure that we correct them and say that we were wrong,” Kingsbury said. “It’s a good reminder that we need to hold ourselves accountable when we do get things wrong.”