Listen Up: Here’s a Replay with Journalist Susanne Craig

UCalgary’s Pulitzer-Prize winning poli-sci alumna returned to her alma mater to discuss the power of the long game

By Deb Cummings

Despite the fears that nobody reads newspapers anymore — a sold-out audience attended last week’s Alumni Weekend luncheon. The headliner was Susanne Craig, the Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist at The New York Times who cut her chops at The Gauntlet, before muscling her way on to the mastheads of some of this continent’s top newspapers.

In a candid, lively conversation — from Craig’s first writing gigs (in order to nab free movie tickets) to the 18-month investigation into President Trump’s financial dealings — we learned never to underestimate the power of a face-to-face gathering that tackles big, burning questions that are relevant, intellectual and provocative. Just the kind you might find in a newspaper that supports investigative journalism.

For those of you who missed the sold-out luncheon, here’s Craig’s take . . . 

  • On teacherly advice: “I remember coming to class in junior high when my teacher, Brenda Wallace, would challenge us and say, "You should try and find mistakes in history books." When I think about Donald Trump, he epitomizes to me that a lie passed down into history does become truth: He is not a self-made man. He did not just get a million dollars from his father. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth.”
  • On the power of snail mail: “It was Friday afternoon and I was closing down a story on Hillary Clinton and her relationship with Goldman Sachs when I checked my mail slot. Inside were three pages of Donald Trump’s 1995 tax returns. Being a skeptical journalist, my first thought was this was fake, but I also had to wonder if it could be real. That envelope set off not just a 10-day journey of trying to confirm those tax returns and get them to press but it also launched me on the journey that I’ve been on for two years — the one that led to the Pulitzer.” 
  • On the importance of sources: “It's a scary thing to come forward, especially when you're dealing with taxes because usually if you're handing taxes over to The New York Times, you're in legal jeopardy. If you're in possession of them, you're either in some sort of arrangement with the President where you said you wouldn't, or if you were with the IRS, it’s a go-to-jail card. I can never thank our sources enough.”
  • On celebrity journalism: “Trump has ushered in a sense of show business where reporters routinely appear on TV, turning them into recognizable celebrities. Honestly, I have been stopped while walking my dog by people who want to have selfies with me. But every time I am on TV, I am taking time away from something that I’d doing at The Times. I think reporters — especially those who are paid to go on TV — should be very mindful of that.”
  • On security: “Trump has set the record down that the media are the enemy of the people. He’s inciting people to do things which is why we have barricades outside our building; why staffers have undergone active shooter training; why we work with security teams at buildings around us where people can see into our windows; why I power down my phone when I go through customs and never take my work laptop with me across borders; why we have a person who’s in charge of monitoring threats against staff members . . . 
  • On how we get our news: “Television news in the United States is incredibly opinionated. From 6 p.m. to midnight, it’s one opinion show after another. I make a conscious effort to mix it up. I listen to NPR and CBC and watch CNN, Fox, the BBC, CBC and read The Times, The Wall Street Journal. I just want to hear what everybody is saying.” 

Couldn’t get a ticket to the luncheon or simply want to replay the interview between Susanne Craig, BA’91, and Chancellor Deborah Yedlin? Listen up . . . 

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