CNN journalist Kaitlan Collins spent her first time in Conn. at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Sunday afternoon, sharing what she believes to be the secrets of successful and honest journalism through three pillars: supporting truth with evidence, holding powerful people accountable and having empathy. She offered stories that shed light on her journey from CNN White House Correspondent to Host of The Source with Kaitlan Collins, as well as her recent travels to Israel amidst the current Israel-Hamas crisis. 

After Collins finished offering her remarks, Fairfield University Professor Phillip Eliasoph, Ph.D., Professor Karla Barguiarena and Digital Journalism Students Peyton Perry ‘24 and Annie Tomosivitch ‘24 joined her on stage for an interactive panel discussion. 

Collins expanded on her core beliefs and values as a TV news journalist in the age of increasing political polarization in her opening statements. Elaborating on the point of truth, Collins referenced a recent segment from The Source, when she cited direct quotes from past interviews with Republican Presidential Candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, after he wrongfully claimed he had been misquoted. 

Relating to this notion of truth, she revealed the importance of persistence, especially when interviewing politicians. “The most important part of any interview is the follow-up and making sure that you’re asking that question…and if you don’t get an answer, ask it again,” she said.  

Prompted about her work process, Collins revealed the extensive research and preparation process she carries out before interviews. It is a “crazy research process” but according to the CNN anchor, the key to a good interview is “being prepared to go where the conversation could go.” 

Sometimes you’re the only friend that truth has.

Kaitlan Collins

Emphasizing the value in leaving no question unasked, she referenced the work that goes into creating them. 

“I worked really hard on these questions, so I’m going to ask them,” she said.

Collins also elaborated on the importance of holding powerful people accountable, recalling occasions when she was the only press member allowed in a room at the White House. She described these situations, stating, “Sometimes you’re the only friend that truth has.”

Moreover, the CNN anchor explained how her tenacity is strengthened over time. She reflected on past criticism from former President Trump, explaining how confidence helped her in her notorious exchange with the former President in May. Collins stressed that “There is no shame in asking a question.”

 “It’s your job as a reporter, so you should never feel embarrassed. That’s why you’re there,” she claimed.

Lastly, Collins’ explained the importance of empathy in journalism today. “You’re not just covering a story—you’re covering people,” she stated.

While Collins has always tried to center stories around people, she explained how the Israel-Gaza conflict is much different than news she typically covers.

It was really difficult to be there because you’re absorbing these people’s pain and it changes the way you report on it because you’re there and you see it and you feel it.

Kaitlan Collins

The war has allowed her to better understand the responsibility within her role, she explained. 

“It was really difficult to be there because you’re absorbing these people’s pain and it changes the way you report on it because you’re there and you see it and you feel it,” Collins shared.

When asked about the media’s responsibility to cover as many angles as possible, not only sharing the affected families in Israel but also the displaced civilians in Gaza, Collins admitted that while she always tries to obtain all perspectives, it has been much easier to contact people in Israel due to the electricity and internet shortages in Gaza. 

Collins also shared that it is much more difficult to get reporters on the ground in Gaza because of the dangerous conditions as “39 reporters have been killed since October 7.” She said the easiest way of sharing Gaza’s story has been through voice notes from citizens and doctors in the area. 

Overall, “It is important to make sure that we’re being responsible and aware of all of those issues that are at play when we’re picking which story we’re covering, when and how,” Collins said.

Just seven years before her role at The Daily Caller, Collins had no aspirations of pursuing a career in journalism or politics. Instead, she started her undergraduate career as a chemistry major at the University of Alabama. 

Nearly failing chemistry her freshman year, however, Collins had to redirect her path toward a new major, igniting her love for journalism. 

“It was so funny how much it changed college for me,” she stated. 

“I loved college after that…I loved going to class and doing the extra credit things that you didn’t really have to go to,” Collins reflected.

Further, Collins recalled a nickname her mother had coined for her. As the “Mouth of the South,” Collins revealed that her talkative nature has “proven to be more effective” in a professional context. 

Collins’ transition into covering politics put her at the White House during former president Donald Trump’s administration. 

Collins discussed her ban from the White House Rose Garden in July 2018, after asking a question former President Trump considered “inappropriate” at a press conference. This event cemented Collins as a reporter known for persistently asking tough questions. 

Someone actually sent me a cross-stitched pillow that’s in my office that says ‘not a nasty woman.’

Kaitlan Collins

More than this, Collins recounted a similar experience when she hosted a presidential town hall. According to the anchor, Trump used misinformation in his answers. After Collins pushed back on such claims, the former President called her a “nasty person.” 

Collins recounted the experience humorously recalling, “Someone actually sent me a cross-stitched pillow that’s in my office that says ‘not a nasty woman.’” 

“It’s my favorite thing that I own… I’ve got all the souvenirs from that” she shared.

 According to Collins, the news landscape is changing due to the habits of younger generations and the results of increased polarization.

There are a lot of people who just watch news that confirms what they already know. I’m not interested in that. I want things that challenge what I know, that educate me…teach me more.

Kaitlan Collins

On the topic of media consumption by today’s youth, Collins mentioned her younger brother, who she said gets most of his news off TikTok—but she can’t help sending him headlines of the day. She recognizes that this is the norm, not only for her brother but for many young people, and stresses the importance of CNN’s status as a multimedia source with numerous online platforms.  

“You have to meet young people where they are; they’re not going to suddenly start going home and watching the evening news,” she said.  

Regarding polarization, Collins expressed disappointment with its effects. She noted how her background at a more conservative platform gave her skills that made her better in the White House. She now has a better understanding of the whole picture. For her, it’s about learning, wherever that may be.

Collins stressed this by saying, “There are a lot of people who just watch news that confirms what they already know. I’m not interested in that. I want things that challenge what I know, that educate me…teach me more.”

Collins expressed gratitude for the opportunity to speak with young people interested in consuming and creating news. She encouraged young people to interview sources with an open mind.

In a conversation with The Rearview, Collins outlined the key messages she hoped young people would take away from her presentation.

“I want people to ask the questions of things they don’t know, that they genuinely are curious about… and I want to tell people what my experience was,” she relayed.

Collins hoped that her talk would help young people understand that a career in journalism is much more attainable than they may think. More than this, she hoped that her story would help young people be better prepared and aware of what working in the real world is like. 

“That’s the point of talking to someone who’s done something,” she concluded. 

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