The latest installment of #HerStory features Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour. In this interview she speaks to what it’s like covering the White House as a woman of color, and the value of receiving feedback online.
Where does your interest in journalism stem from?
I became a reporter because I was really interested in civil rights reporting. The story of Emmett Till, who was a young 14-year-old boy murdered in Mississippi, really got me interested in journalism, the power of journalism, and how images can change a whole country — and change the whole world.
My first journalism job was at Newsday, in Long Island, New York, and I was a cops reporter, but I also was covering all sorts of things, including dead whales washing up on the beach and missing puppies.
You’re now based in Washington D.C. and a White House reporter for PBS NewsHour. What's an average day like for you?
An average day for me is never average. Because I cover President Trump, his day is constantly changing, and he's constantly saying things that blow up the day. So essentially, I feel like I wake up in the morning and already know that there's going to be a change and chaos in my day. So my day is, in some ways, always constantly changing, and that is in itself pretty average.
Tell us about your experiences, especially in the role that you have right now, as a woman of color.
Being a White House journalist as a woman of color has been challenging, because the job in and of itself is something that is constantly changing, constantly evolving. There are people who talk to me about the pain that they feel at times when they hear the president say something that they deem to be racist. So I think I've also taken on this double layer of not just being a White House journalist, but also representing people who tell me about their struggles, and tell me about how the diversity that they think is an attribute has at times been used against them.
Do you have any advice for other female journalists?
Never listen to anybody who tells you that you can't do something. I've been told that I didn't look the part, that I wasn't the right weight, that I wasn't the right skin color for the job that I have now. But if you persevere and you believe in yourself, then you can do whatever you put your mind to.
Let’s talk Twitter. How many times do you check it each day, and what’s something you enjoy witnessing on the platform?
I check Twitter way too many times to count because the president is constantly making news, and also because news is constantly happening, including news that isn't on my beat. Like when Meghan met Beyoncé — I was checking my Twitter for that, too. So it's something that I use for work, but also something that I use when I want to get a good laugh. My favorite thing that I've seen happening on Twitter is people giving feedback to reporters. It can be easy to say that you don't want to hear from people, or hear from readers or viewers, but I think it's incredibly important to hear how people are taking in the information that you're giving to them, to see yourself as someone who can have flaws and make mistakes, and be corrected by people. Also, people can give you ideas about how to cover a story better on Twitter, so I love hearing the feedback from users, even if it's negative or positive.
What have some of your favorite hashtags or movements been on Twitter?
The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, because I've covered that extensively and think it's a powerful movement that has asked a question to this country of what kind of country do we want to be? I also think all the hashtags having to do with “Game of Thrones” are important. There's #GameofThrones, but there's also #DemThrones, which was kind of the #BlackTwitter version of “Game of Thrones.”
How do you define #BlackTwitter?
I define #BlackTwitter as a community of people who are talking and joking, who are African American and have smart things to say — that are leading the news in some ways — asking the questions that this country needs to be asking about who we want to be as Americans. But also reminding people when they make mistakes that there is a whole group of African Americans ready to take you to task if you say something derogatory or prejudiced.
Now my favorite question — who are your top five must-follow female journalists?
My top five female journalists to follow on Twitter are Abby Phillip, Laura Jarrett, Maggie Haberman, Ashley Parker, and Nikole Hannah-Jones. They are funny, informative, but also really, really smart. I enjoy reading their Tweets because I think that they are people who really understand the world, and are both educating people while also entertaining them a bit.
Okay, last but not least, if you have a wish list of features that you'd like to see on Twitter, what would be on it?
I’d like to see all the Tweets that people deleted. I try not to delete Tweets because I think that people should see if I make a mistake or if I spell someone's name wrong, so I'd be really interested to see what Tweets people write and then delete.