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School of Journalism and New Media
University of Mississippi

New York Times opinion editor inspires University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media students and faculty

Posted on: October 20th, 2022 by ldrucker

A New York Times opinion editor visited the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media Thursday, Oct. 13, and left some students and faculty inspired about journalism.

NYT Opinion Editor Kathleen Kingsbury participated in a discussion called “Independence and Opinion at The New York Times” with UM School of Journalism and New Media Dean Andrea Hickerson, Ph.D. in the Overby Center auditorium inside Farley Hall.

Kingsbury answered questions from Hickerson and audience members providing insight and advice about working in journalism and editorial writing. She told the audience how she got started in journalism, how that led to her position with The NYT and challenges she has faced in her career.

“… One of the big things I think a lot about is just that we live in such an uncertain time,” Kingsbury said, adding that journalists often face economic instability.

Kathleen Kingsbury, of The New York Times, stands with Professor Charlie Mitchell at the front of his class.

Kathleen Kingsbury, of The New York Times, stands with Professor Charlie Mitchell at the front of his class.

She said she has been laid off from jobs due to budget cuts or economic issues. She has also faced challenges as a woman in journalism, though she said the situation has been improving over the years. Some of the skills Kingsbury said were beneficial in journalism are being resilient and adaptable, “because, right now, the news cycle is relentless,” she said.  She also believes burnout is common in newsrooms, mental health is important, and taking breaks in this career helps.

These breaks can range from, “I’ve got to take a walk around the block to I just need a week off,” she said.

It is also important to know when you should be at work, she said.  Kingsbury offered a personal example about how she decided to delay the celebration of her son’s 8th birthday, which occurred on the same day as the recent Uvalde, Texas school shooting, because she felt she should be in the newsroom that day.  This highlighted another challenge – balancing family and work life.

Annie Phelps, a journalism student who attended the event, said she found Kingsbury’s talk inspiring. Her takeaway was that anyone can overcome barriers and challenges and succeed.

“… No matter what, I can still work my way up, no matter my gender, my economic status,” she said. “I could work hard and I could make my way up just like she did.”

Kathleen Kingsbury, of The New York Times, stands with student Justice Rose in the Student Media Center.

Kathleen Kingsbury, of The New York Times, stands with student Justice Rose in the Student Media Center. Photo by MacKenzie Ross.

Justice Rose, a journalism student who serves as the opinion editor of The Daily Mississippian and vice president of the University of Mississippi chapter of the NAACP, said Kingsbury’s visit was a reflective opportunity.

“She came to the SMC and spoke to some of the DM editors, myself included,” he said. “Kingsbury and I are both opinion editors, so I wanted to gain some insight on how she goes about managing an opinion column. Her responsibilities are much larger than mine, but it was really grounding to learn we share some methodologies and ideas when editing and curating the opinion column.”

Rose said Kingsbury is a proponent for including diverse voices and ideas, something he said he has also focused on since joining the DM.

“Funny enough, she said the most common edits she makes to pieces are copy edits: little grammatical errors or AP errors,” he said. “I could tell that Kathleen really loves her job and that enthusiasm and passion sort of rubbed off on me. I loved that in our conversation she wanted to know about my work process. At the DM, the biggest edits I usually make in submitted pieces are prose/syntax edits. I’m always changing things around trying to make it read smoothly.”

Rose described Kingsbury as a “down-to-earth” person.

“She came into her role at the height of the pandemic, and seems to have everything figured out now,” he said. “… having a figure like that visit and interact with students is so, so rare. I appreciate her and applaud her for sharing humbling knowledge.”

Kingsbury also spoke to one of Professor Charlie Mitchell’s classes.

“She gave a realistic description of the joys and new challenges of serving with America’s largest news writers and opinion leaders,” Mitchell said. “The students had pointed questions, and her responses were thorough and frank.”

Despite its challenges, Kingsbury said, “There’s no better career in the world, right? You get to go and learn things, and ask people tough questions, and meet people, and get into really deep conversations with them, and then tell the world about those conversations.”

Kingsbury said she feels journalism offers endless opportunities with incredible personal rewards that are well worth any possible drawbacks.

This story was written by Ruth Mayo.

LaReeca Rucker contributed to this story.