Political Journalist Eleanor Clift Speaks at Scripps

Journalist and political pundit Eleanor Clift, contributor to Newsweek and the Daily Beast, came to Scripps College last night to speak about the implications of the recent election. Her talk was titled “The Road Ahead: Is There a Mandate for Change?”

Organized by the Malott Commons Programming Office, Clift also attended a roundtable discussion with students interested in writing and journalism before her talk, as well as a dinner discussion with students interested in politics. The discussions focused on Clift’s personal history and advice for students rather than the November 2012 elections, said Scripps’s Director of Public Events Karen Bowman.

“My life and career really parallels the entry of women into the public sphere and the rise and the fall of national media,” Clift said during the roundtable discussion. Clift began work as a secretary at Newsweek in the 1960s and began reporting in the 1970s when a sexual discrimination lawsuit was brought against Newsweek by female employees.

“They signed me to cover a presidential candidate who wasn’t supposed to win,” Clift said. “His name was Jimmy Carter … I call that my Cinderella story.”

Clift has since gained global recognition for her reporting. In addition to her work for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, Clift regularly appears on the television program “The McLaughlin Group” to give her opinion on the current political discourses. In the past, Clift was Newsweek’s White House correspondent, and has covered every United States presidential election since 1972. In 1992, Clift played a key role in the election coverage of Bill Clinton’s campaign and was named the deputy chief of Newsweek’s Washington bureau during this time. Since then, Clift has focused on the partisan clashes in Congress and the conflicting views of the Republican Party since the development of the Tea Party.

Regarding the recent election, Clift commented on the Republican Party’s image issue with female and minority voters. “If you’re a political party, you’ve got to look like the country you represent,” she said.

“Clift’s career in journalism began at a time when few women were in the press room, and her successes demonstrate the importance of women’s voices in political journalism,” Bowman said. “She has also written on the prospects of a woman running for president with her book Madam President: Shattering the Last Glass Ceiling and woman’s suffrage with Founding Sisters. She has become an influential voice in American political journalism. It is our hope that Ms. Clift’s visit will encourage thoughtful discussion about national politics across the political spectrum, especially those issues of particular importance to women.”

Clift’s presence on campus also encouraged students interested in journalism and fields other than politics.

“There will always be jobs for people who can think and write clearly,” Clift said.

Clift’s visit to Scripps is a part of the Alexa Hampton Fullerton Endowed Speakers Program, which focuses on women in politics and public service. Earlier in the fall, Abigail Disney visited to discuss the role of women in conflict and peace building, and Geena Davis will visit in the spring to discuss gender in the media.

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