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Gayle King Is a Humble Trailblazer

“I was getting on the plane one day and a woman stopped me to say, ‘I can’t believe you are getting on this plane with us! Can’t you fly private?’ I laughed, and told her, ‘Well… I’m not Oprah.’”

Gayle King, accomplished journalist, editor-at-large of Oprah Magazine and anchor of CBS Newshour, shared this anecdote at the start of her address to a lively room at the fall Colloquium for the Council for Women of Boston College (CWBC). The event was held in Robsham Theater on Tuesday, Oct. 17. One of King’s many humorous accounts, this story highlights her humble self-image.

Despite her standing as one of the most well-known broadcast journalists in the world, King doesn’t consider herself in the same ranks as other highly respected trailblazers in the field, some of whom include Michael Wallace and Oprah Winfrey herself. The reality is that King has indeed achieved high status as a broadcast journalist, as exemplified in her earning a spot on Time’s Most Influential People of 2019 list. Her down-to-earth nature is, perhaps, a contributing factor in her renown.

King’s achievements could be measured in her many accomplishments. Starting at a small, local studio in Kansas City, King rose to the top, securing her current role at CBS. She considers one of her most defining moments to be at the start of her career, when she interviewed civil rights leader and activist, Jesse Jackson. Jackson could see her promise as a bright, young journalist and advised her to keep working toward success. 

“Excellence is the best deterrent to racism, so keep being excellent,” he told her. 

While her career journey started in her early 20s, King’s interest in the television industry developed during early childhood. Growing up, she lived in Turkey, where her family had no access to television. After coming to the United States, she became obsessed. Additionally, her father always emphasized the importance of awareness in what was going on around the world. King acknowledges that this longing to be globally connected is what motivates and excites her work today. 

“We have a front-row seat to everything happening in the world,” she says of the position granted to her and her colleagues.

Personally, King would most likely measure her success by the stories she has been able to cover, the opportunities she has to share news with the world, and the platform she can use to rid society of toxicity and negativity in a world with so much to be hopeful about. 

One of her most notable and highly-viewed reporting opportunities was a career-changing interview with American singer, Robert Kelly, following his charges of sexual violence. King had to stick to her rule of asking tough yet fair questions; the guideline has become a staple of her reporting style.

“I believe any question can be asked as long as it’s in the right tone and the right setting,” King explains. 

After the talk, the director of BC’s journalism program, Professor Angela Ards, led a question and answer session. Ards points out that despite Kelly’s fits of anger during their interview, it seemed as though King was not scared of him. Instead, she was scared of losing the story.

This observation is met with laughter and an exclamation: “That’s so bad!”

While King may have seen this as a weakness, her commitment to pushing past obstacles instead highlights her resilience and experience as a reporter. King’s motivation to share stories with the rest of the world has pushed her to where she is today. Throughout the tumultuous times in her career, her eagerness to be the connection between viewers and what events are developing around the world has motivated King to continue her work. To her, reporting is a duty, and one that she cannot give up.