Donald Trump’s disparaging comments to and about women have not deterred a growing number of women journalists covering, first his campaign and now his presidency. These professionals have become household names – Maggie Haberman from the New York Times, Cecilia Vega, White House Correspondent for ABC News, Margaret Brennan, of CBS News, Hallie Jackson, White House Correspondent for NBC News, Kristen Welker and Kasie Hunt, of NBC News, Ashley Parker, White House Reporter for the Washington Post, Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief of USA Today, and many more.
Add to that list Katy Tur, of NBC, whose assignment to cover Trump came out of left field and tossed her into what would become “the craziest campaign in American history.” Not since Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, which took us inside another crazy presidential campaign, the 1968 face-off between Democrats George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, and Edmund Muskie, and then the 1972 election between Humphrey and Richard Nixon, has there been such a juicy and fascinating take on what it’s like to be part of the press herd covering a candidate. From her front row seat, Tur not only details what went on before the cameras, but takes us behind the scenes describing her numerous encounters with Trump unplugged.
In 2015, Tur was happy enough as an NBC correspondent based in London. She had a boyfriend in Paris and a quick trip through the Chunnel allowed them to meet most weekends. On a trip back to the U.S., she gets a call from a friend at NBC. She’s going to be offered – and encouraged to accept – an assignment to cover the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. While reporting on any presidential campaign is appealing, Trump’s chances more than 500 days before the election seemed slim. Katy figures she can cover Trump and then head back to Europe. That return trip across the pond is put off when Trump’s campaign picks up speed. Soon the unbelievable becomes more than a possibility. And Katy is able to document the entire thing from the beginning when Trump attracted a small crowd in New Hampshire to election night when appearing stunned he appears on stage to thundering applause from his supporters.
As we’ve come to expect with Trump’s presidency, Tur never knows which Trump will show up – the friendly Trump who lands a big kiss on her when she passes him in an NBC hallway, or the bully Trump who calls her out by name in the midst of a campaign rally. At five feet, three inches, Katy Tur may have seemed an easy target for Trump. At one of his rallies, he called out: “Look back there! `Little Katy. She’s back there.” Labeling her with his famous “fake media” label, he continued: “She’s such a liar. What a little liar she is!” On one occasion, reaction from the crowd was so threatening, Katy needed Secret Service protection to exit the venue.
But Tur, despite her size, is not easily intimidated. She’s smart, she does her homework and isn’t sidetracked when she’s trying to get a story. Early on, she shows up at Trump Tower for a sit down with the candidate. She asks the hard questions and thinks the interview went well. When she returns to NBC she finds out that Trump is furious, angry that she put him on the spot and didn’t let up. Trump has been put on notice. It won’t be so easy to ignore “Little Katy” from now on.
Many books will come out of the 2016 campaign. Others – Hillary Clinton’s What Went Wrong as well as Joshua Green’s Devil’s Bargain – include more analysis of the campaign. Tur does that, too, but her book is more an insider view of what it’s like being a reporter covering such a big story. There’s little time to sleep or enjoy a hot shower. Reporters eat when they can, and often not healthy food. And for TV reporters, being able to think fast for two minutes on the air is a must. Katy time and again shows how it’s done.
The book is a must read for any young person thinking about a career in journalism. For everyone else, it reinforces why we need a free press now more than ever.
Top photo Bigstock: May 25, 2016: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at campaign event in Costa Mesa California to Thousands of Supporters.
Katy Tur’s photo: Credit Elena Seibert