Trust, ethics and honesty are the three most important traits in today’s journalism for The New York Times Opinion Editor Kathleen Kingsbury.
“Because you know, we do live in this moment where there’s so much skepticism of expertise,” Kingsbury said.
She went on to describe her team’s process for building and retraining audience trust in a more skeptical world.
“We spend a lot of time talking about how we do our journalism, why we do our journalism, where our sources of information are, and how we come to the arguments that we’re trying to make,” she said.
Speaking to students at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media, she also discussed the challenges for women in media leadership roles.
“I’ve had editors who treated me like an object. I’ve had men fact-check me more often than their other male counterparts. I’ve been in situations while in the Middle East, where I would reach out to shake hands with an ambassador or male figure, and they would refuse, because of the misogynist customs of their country,” she said.
But Kingsbury said U.S. newsrooms have come a long way.
“Compared to how women in media were treated before me in America, I am very blessed to say that I have not come into any real major issues as a prominent female in the newsroom,” she said.
According to a Reuters Institute report from 2021, around 24% of the top newspaper editors today are women, and Kingsbury sees a much more equitable future for women journalists.
“My senior leadership team now is mostly women, primarily women of color – something that I’m very proud of. This day and age is extremely hopeful for the next generation of powerful women in media after me because I see that the stigma is slipping away at last. If you’re good at what you do, then people will respect you for that,” Kingsbury said.
Still, Kingsbury shared a story about Dorothy Gilliam, a revolutionary female reporter from Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1961, Gilliam became the first African American female reporter hired at The Washington Post. While she had a long, successful career as a journalist, one day she was asked: “Given the progress that has already been made, how much farther do we push?”
According to Kingsbury, Gilliam answered: “A lot further.”
For those who are interested in becoming journalists, Kingsbury said it is important to be resilient, and it also helps to be a naturally curious person.
“I really encourage anyone who is interested in being a journalist…to give it a try and give it a shot, because it will be incredibly rewarding and satisfying,” she said.
Kingsbury also encourages all journalists to safeguard their mental health.
“Don’t be afraid to take a day or two off when you feel overstimulated and alone. I always try to make sure that my staff is comfortable with their environment,” said Kingsbury. “I think figuring out how to support each other in more meaningful ways – both for men and women – will benefit the world of journalism and media tremendously.”
For Kingsbury, journalism is still a dream career.
“You get to go and learn things and ask people tough questions. You get into really deep conversations with them and then tell the world about those conversations; the excitement about what I do on a daily basis and what my colleagues do on a daily basis; being able to explain the world to people is an incredible privilege. And it’s so fun.”