An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Covering Hillary: An interview with New York Times reporter Amy Chozick

Amy Chozick
Amy Chozick

New York Times reporter Amy Chozick got her start at The Daily Texan, where she worked from 1997 to 2001. She’s become best known as the Times’ lead reporter on the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016. However, she also spent eight years at The Wall Street Journal, where she covered both Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s 2008 campaigns. Last month, her book, “Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling,” went on sale, and not surprisingly, it has generated widespread attention. Friends of The Daily Texan caught up with her to find out what it was like covering Clinton and writing her first book.

What jobs did you hold at The Texan? 

I mostly worked in the entertainment section. South by Southwest was just a little festival then, and me and my Texan colleagues owned it, working the rope lines and going to every screening to cover the movies and music events (way before it went corporate) for the paper. We ran to the Kinko’s to make business cards so we’d look official.

What did you enjoy most about The Texan?

I didn’t really fit in with the sorority girls or the stoners, and it took me awhile to find “my people” at UT. I loved the friends I made at The Texan, many of whom I am still close to. I walked into that basement and felt like I’d found my place – which is hard to do on a campus as big as UT.

You once wrote that after college you got your foot in the door in New York City with nothing but a stack of clips from The Daily Texan. How did you do that?

Two weeks after graduation I took a one-way ticket to New York with my stack of clips from The Texan. I would drop them off downstairs at publications I wanted to work for (Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, etc.). I didn’t have any contacts, so I was going blind. (I don’t recommend this.) Security guards would sometimes escort me out. But eventually I got my foot in the door, and what impressed the editors were my Texan clips. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where your stories run, if they’re good, they’re good. But it helped that The Texan, at the time, had a circulation of something like 20,000, which is the size of some local newspapers.

What was your first job in New York?

I was something called a rover at Conde Nast Publications, the publisher of magazines like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, Vogue, etc. Rovers were a step above temps. We had six months to fill in at whatever magazine needed our services (mostly organizing closets, answering phones, making coffee). The point was to make contacts and get hired at the end of the six months. If not, the rovership ended. I got a job as an editorial assistant at House & Garden magazine, and that was my first real (permanent) job in New York.

How did you wind up at The New York Times?

I was hired by The New York Times in 2011 to cover corporate media. I’d previously spent eight years on various beats at The Wall Street Journal, including as a foreign correspondent based in Tokyo and covering Hillary and Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

What jobs have you held at the Times?

I covered corporate media companies for about 18 months, then in 2013, I was assigned to the Hillary beat, keeping an eye on what she’d do after the State Department and in the lead-up until 2016. I was the paper’s lead reporter covering Hillary’s presidential campaign. I then went on book leave and am now a writer-at-large covering a range of topics, including politics, media and business.

How long did you take off to write the book?

I took about nine months, including research, writing and editing. I worked on the book every weekend and before or after work for another three to four months.

What was different about it and writing newspaper or magazine articles? Did you have problems with writer’s block, procrastination, etc.?

I am extremely self-disciplined. Procrastination isn’t a problem. I had a rigorous routine of getting to my chair around 7 a.m. and writing until the afternoon, when I’d get lunch or go to a workout to clear my head. Writer’s block is a myth. You sit down, you put words on the page, you can make them better later. Book writing was completely different from writing newspaper and magazine articles. This is a memoir, so it is in my own voice. It needed to read like a friend telling you a story, which is a very different voice and more of a challenge than sitting down to write a newspaper story that delivers the facts in a straight Timesian voice.

What advice would you give someone who’s about to write their first book?

Read. You can’t write a book unless you read lots and lots of books. I treated reading as part of the job. For starters, I recommend Mary Karr’s “The Art of Memoir” and Stephen King’s “On Writing,” but I also recommend reading novels, nonfiction, poetry, all of it. Study how great authors structure their stories, hone their voices, develop their characters, describe places; all of that will be useful in your own writing.

Aside from Hillary Clinton, what are some of the other big stories you’ve covered? Which ones did you enjoy the most? Why?

I’d go back to The Wall Street Journal. I covered Hillary and Obama’s 2008 presidential campaigns for the Journal. I was next to Hillary when she cried in a diner in New Hampshire. I was with Obama on election night in Chicago in 2008, and I was in D.C. to cover his inauguration. I covered the 2008 campaign for the Journal through the financial crisis, which put me at the center of another major story. I then covered the early years of the Obama White House. As a media reporter at the Times, I covered the phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloids, which included a lot of time reporting from London and a couple trips to Parliament. And I’m not sure we’ve had a more seismic news event in recent years than the 2016 election and the unexpected victory of Donald Trump. I like covering presidential campaigns because they’re about the country. I’ve traveled to 48 states with Hillary and Obama (including flying on Air Force One to Hawaii to babysit the Obamas over their Christmas vacation, one of the cushiest assignments in journalism). Presidential campaigns give us the chance to take the pulse of the country in a way that no other story does. I’ve been lucky to cover several of them.

How did you end up covering Hillary Clinton in 2008?

Well, that’s a long story. Please see this Cosmo article. But to summarize, I’d been a foreign correspondent based in Tokyo for The Wall Street Journal in 2007 when the foreign editor (John Bussey) became Washington bureau chief and wanted me to go to Iowa to cover Hillary Clinton. I didn’t know much about American politics, so everything was a surprise. I’d hardly heard of Barack Obama and didn’t know what a caucus was. I thought, “Hillary Clinton! I’m riding this beat all the way to the White House.” We know how that worked out … twice.  

Was covering Clinton in 2016 different from 2008? How?

The media experienced meteoric changes in those eight years. Facebook existed but was in its infancy in 2008. In 2016, Twitter was central to the election of Donald Trump, every rally could be watched via live stream, Russians weaponized Facebook, etc. I think, broadly, that’s one of the biggest differences. As for Hillary, specifically, in 2008 she’d been a popular New York senator and was very used to talking to people – especially working-class, white and rural voters like the ones she won over in Upstate New York. Those were her voters in the 2008 Democratic primary. In 2016, she seemed more aloof – after four years at the State Department – and not quite as in sync with the angry mood of the electorate. That said, she did become the first woman to capture the Democratic Party’s nomination, and she won 3 million more votes than Trump, so she made it further than she had eight years earlier.

What are the questions friends ask you the most about Clinton? How do you respond?

People always ask me if I like Hillary. I usually respond: “It’s complicated.”

Election night in 2016 was a surprise for most people. How did it feel for you emotionally to realize that this person you’d been covering so long was not going to be president after all?

I was too exhausted on election night for it to really hit me. I just went home, slept for maybe two hours in front of CNN and had my marching orders to cover Hillary’s concession speech on Wednesday and then write a story about how she lost. It was almost mechanical at that point: What are the next stories I need to do? It took several weeks for it to really sink in. The data said Hillary couldn’t lose, so I was admittedly surprised. That said, I’d covered this campaign for a couple years and had told my editors for months that it didn’t feel like a winning campaign. So I probably wasn’t as shocked as a lot of people were. More on that in the book!

What do you hope to accomplish with your book?

I hope I’ve written an entertaining, enlightening, deeply personal story that gives readers an inside look at Hillary and explains, through my front-row seat, the most grueling presidential election in modern history and how we got here.

Sean Price writes about public health and other policy issues at the Texas Medical Association in Austin. He has published more than 50 books for young people and worked as managing editor at both Scholastic Inc. and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Price served as editor of The Daily Texan from 1987 to 1988.