2019 duPont Awards
You may have seen my photo with 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker on my Instagram page. It was a redeeming moment after a hard diss by a second, unnamed 60 Minutes correspondent.
Here we are in the Low Memorial library at Columbia University. It is an incredibly historic and beautiful place, very apropos for a journalism awards ceremony. I’ve never been to this campus and it’s regal. Everyone is excited and just so happy to be there. Unlike the Emmy awards, when you’re invited to the duPont, you already know you’ve won, and it’s a lovely night to be with your colleagues and celebrate. And it was special for me because I brought my parents, who have never been to something like this. And given how selective the awards jury is, I may never go again as a winner.
Long story short, I said hello to Bill quickly before the ceremony. I also happened to run into a colleague of his whom I also admire very much. I’d read her book when I was starting out as a journalist and told her so. Then I asked if we could take a photo together. Not a selfie, but a regular photo of two journalists at a journalism awards ceremony. She gave me a once-over and said, “I don’t do that,” turned and walked away.
Gut punch! It was a survivable moment, clearly, but the surprise and the tone of her denial just caught me off guard. As a person who has hosted many an event, and as a person who has also been interrupted by random strangers once in a while for a photo, it was a reminder that you can be gracious or you can make someone feel super small. I know there are many reasons for saying no to a photo, and that’s fine. But it’s how you relate to people that shows a bit of humanity, especially when that comes with the duties of being an event host.
Fast forward to the end of the ceremony. For some reason my dad felt it was urgent to get our three gigantic puffy jackets out of the coat check to “avoid the line.” Except we still have an hour of mingling/dessert reception. So I’m standing there, carrying a mound of coats, talking with my boss Stephanie—literally telling her the story of my minor soul-crushing moment after being given the hard no on a photo request, when out of the corner of our eyes we see none other than Bill Whitaker, himself a duPont honoree, making his way through the crowd in our direction.
I’m like, “It’s Bill Whitaker!” and my boss is like, “It’s Bill Whitaker!” And then we both look at my bundle of coats and she’s like, “Drop the coats. Drop the coats. Just DROP THEM!” Naturally I drop the coats. Right onto the ground. As though Bill Whitaker can’t see the pile of down coats now covering my feet. I turn toward him just as he comes to shake my hand and congratulate us on our reporting, saying he had no idea these attacks on bus operators were so severe.
I tell Bill how I not only saw his reports on the DEA whistleblower but I also listened to them because listening to 60 Minutes gives me a better appreciation of his writing and the way he conducts his interviews. Then, despite my previous experience asking a 60 Minutes correspondent for a photo together, I ask Bill and he’s so gracious and my boss swoops in and snaps this pic and we part ways. And my mom has scooped up all the coats off the floor.