Five Years Later, Gail Collins Speaks About Her 2012 Lifetime Honor

This is the 20th in a series of articles about winners of the NSNC’s annual Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award.

By Dave Astor
NSNC Archivist

Five years after receiving the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award at our 2012 conference in Macon, Georgia, how does Gail Collins feel about that honor?

“Well, the plaque is standing on a shelf in the bookcase in my study,” she said when contacted last month. “I’m obviously proud to have it there and grateful for the award.”

The New York Times op-ed columnist added: “It’s a heck of a time to be a columnist, and I’m happy for the chance to send good wishes to all my colleagues on your [the NSNC’s] mailing list.”

Ben Pollock, who was NSNC president in 2012, said back then: “Adding Gail Collins to our lifetime achievers honors her, but it also honors our profession. Gail walks the walk of both newspapers and scholarship, as a dogged reporter who also gets her elbows deep in the library stacks for historical documents.”

He added: “We mustn’t discount her conversational style; it can’t be easy, but it’s a model for all of us. In both her columns and books, Gail writes with sophistication and an easy clarity – no mean feat.”

Collins joined the Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and then as a columnist. In 2001, she was appointed editorial page editor – the first woman to hold that position at the 1851-founded newspaper.

In 2007, Collins stepped down as EPE to finish her book “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.” She returned as a columnist in time to cover the 2008 presidential election. Her twice-weekly Times feature, written from a liberal perspective, often views current events in a seriocomic way.

Before joining the Times , Collins was a columnist for New York Newsday and the New York Daily News , and a reporter for United Press International.

Earlier in her career, Collins wrote for Connecticut publications. In 1972, she founded the Connecticut State News Bureau; when she sold it five years later, it had grown into the largest service of its kind in the United States. She was also a Connecticut Public Television host.

Collins was nominated for the 2012 Pyle honor by then-NSNC vice president Larry Cohen, who remembered Collins from the Connecticut years they had in common.

“We were like ships passing in the night; I only knew her well enough to say ‘hi’ and share a few friends, but her drive and her humor and her talent were – and still are – remarkable,” said the late Cohen, a conservative political columnist, in 2012.

Collins holds a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University, and a master’s degree in government from the University of Massachusetts. The Ohio native is also the author of a half dozen other books, and, in 2013, wrote the introduction to the 50 th -anniversary edition of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique . In addition, Collins has taught journalism and opinion writing on the university level and been a guest on various TV and radio talk shows.

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Dave Astor writes the weekly “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com, blogs weekly at DaveAstorOnLiterature.com, and is the author of the 2017 book “Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia.

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