Gail Collins at Queens College

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of seeing Gail Collins, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, speak in-person when she came to visit QC. The speaking event was hosted by The Knight News, and a number of students and faculty were in attendance. I was impressed by the number of people who showed up; in fact, the room was quite uncomfortably packed!

Ms. Collins was asked questions by the Editor-in-Chief of the News, Ameila Inderjeit. They discussed her history before joining the New York Times as the first female member of the editorial board. Collins described an early career writing about the Connecticut State Legislature. Since the topic was so boring, she had to use humor to make the articles more enjoyable to read. This was the genesis of the signature witty humor that she is known for today.

Her commitment to journalism is admirable. She worked hard on covering politics long before she became a household name, and pioneered the kind of “funny journalism” that is much more common today with parody news shows like The Daily Show.

Collins offered compelling advice for becoming a better writer: Write as much as you can as often as you can. By doing so, you will become much faster on the draw, your quality will be more consistent, and “writer’s block” will become a thing of the past.

Queens College promotes this kind of constant writing by mandating everyone to take writing intensive and English composition courses. Additionally, programs like the Honors Business and Liberal Arts (BALA) minor and QC Voices (as well as the Writing at Queens Department it belongs to) promote further cultivation of writing prowess. Now, I have a better idea of why the College pushes us to write so much.

When asked an inevitable question about the 2016 election, Ms. Collins provided another honest answer. She has observed that American voters tend to gravitate towards political candidates that represent change. Indeed, many of our presidents in the past century have met that trend. It explains why, with the exception of the Republicans in 1988, neither party has been able to control the White House for longer than eight years since 1952.

As Ms. Collins pointed out, Hillary Clinton was a quintessentially anti-change candidate, explaining why she lost to a very controversial, yet pro-change candidate like President Trump. She may have been very experienced in the roles of Senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State, but her inability to embrace the economic and social justice that Bernie Sanders’s supporters are desperate for may have been the main reason she lost.

It was very interesting to see someone attribute Donald Trump’s victory to anything other than bigotry. It shows how Ms. Collins is really an outside-the-box thinker and is not ideologically constrained by the Times. She has a lot of criticisms of Mr. Trump, and she is simultaneously willing acknowledge the shortcomings of the opposition party.

I think that Queens College should host journalists like her every semester. Of course, you can’t get someone as creative as her every time, but it certainly would be nice to hear some political perspectives other than just “Trump bad. Democrats good.”

Another benefit to having her on campus was that Professor David Leventhal of Forward Nation Radio was able to interview her. You can check out that interview here.

Finally, on an unrelated note, I feel obligated to mention that this will be my final post with QC Voices. I would like to thank my colleagues, my supervisors, and my readers for all they have done for me. I wish next year’s group of writers the best of luck.


The New York Times Building (image credit: Torrenegra on Flickr)

(Featured Image via The New York Times website)

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