Michael Goodwin is the chief political columnist for the New York Post and a regular contributor to Fox News and Fox Business. Before joining the Post in 2009, he was the political columnist for the New York Daily News. Prior to that, he worked for the New York Times for 16 years. Goodwin is the Dow Journalism Program’s Fall 2019 Pulliam Fellow.
Did you write for your high school or college newspaper?
That’s a great question. I did not. But, the most important person in my writing career was my senior high school English teacher, a woman named Mrs. Novak. She used to make us write every day in class, and I fell in love with writing. Years later, when I got to be a reporter at the New York Times, she used to write to me and correct my articles. She was absolutely brilliant about the English language.
What did you learn from working in the Morgue of the New York Times that helped you in your writing career?
Being around journalism, reading the paper, seeing what the reporters were doing, talking to them, getting to know some of them made me feel like I was becoming part of this organization and that was encouraging.
What have been your favorite pieces to write?
I was just grateful to be writing in the beginning. I would write about anything. My first front page story in the NYT was about the weather. And I was heartbroken. Someone said to me, “It’s what people care about most. That’s why it’s on the front page!” And I learned a lesson from that. It’s not about me, it’s about the reader. I really enjoyed writing about sports. Not the games, I don’t think I ever had a final score in any of my stories, it was all about the business, about the scandals.
Do you have any advice for students who want to break into the journalism world?
Do it. Go for it. Because if you can master the skills of writing, interviewing, talking, and thinking on deadline, these are the fundamental skills. Clear thinking, clear writing. Whatever mediums exist in the future, those skills will always be in demand and make you relevant and able to function. Experience breeds skill. It’s not a talent. I don’t think it’s God given. It’s something you learn.
Were you always interested in current events?
I was very interested in current events. I always had an appreciation of government and the importance of it. And I have enjoyed writing about politics for a very long time. I actually admire politicians. First of all, I think you cannot cover anything if you hate it. You can’t be a sports writer if you hate sports. You can’t write about politics if you hate politicians. I mean it’s not right, it’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to the reader. You won’t do a good job at it. It’s good to write about the things you like, the things you care about. If you don’t like the subject that disdain will come through and it will not make your writing interesting to read. What will the reader get out of you sneering all the time? But if you enjoy it, think about what the reader will get out of that.
How has your experience been teaching here at Hillsdale this past week?
I am really enjoying the students. I think they’re sharp, on the ball, they care, they’re earnest, and they’re serious about their work. I hope people are having fun, too!