Associated Press writer Terry Collins visited the Introduction to Journalism class Oct. 29 to share his experiences as a writer for the world’s oldest and largest news agency.
Collins spoke in depth on the recent BART strike, which he had been covering, detailing the ins and outs of writing on such a broad topic.
Persistence and a blanket approach to choosing interview subjects were Collins’ methods to gaining as much information from the widest range of people as possible.
“You could see the…anger from us, you know, riders and everyday people. All walks of life. That was really interesting,” said Collins, commenting on the reactions of the public to the strike.
Collins spoke of journalism in general, saying that most of the requirements of his job came naturally to him. Asking people questions and being curious were part of who he is as a person.
“A lot of it’s human nature, a lot of it’s instinctive…You get a lot of rejections,” he said.
Class instructor Burt Dragin asked Collins about AP’s confidential sources policy. Though AP does sometimes use confidential sources, Collins said AP’s policy concerning them was very strict.
Collins was ambiguous as to the specifics of AP’s policies.
“That’s something you have to talk with the editors about. I think that our sourcing policy is very strict, more strict than a lot of other media agencies…it just depends on the nature of the story topic,” he said.
Collins’ roots in journalism stretch back to high school. Growing up in Chicago, Collins wanted to be like TV commentators Bryant and Greg Gumbel.
His interest in journalism waxed and waned through high school, but a fight with fellow students earned Collins an in-school suspension.
The suspension required Collins to spend more time with his English teacher, who had been trying to persuade Collins to renew his interest in writing.
That teacher persuaded him to write a column for the school newspaper and his love of journalism “went on from there.”
Collins received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa, where he wrote for the college newspaper.
As a postgraduate, Collins interned with the Kansas City Star.
In determining where he wanted to live and pursue his career, Collins decided that “I didn’t want to go any place where I couldn’t get a haircut.”
Collins says that racism has at times made his job harder, but for the most part, he has had positive experiences.
Collins wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and after a two-year courtship with the AP, was finally able to secure a position with the San Francisco branch of the renowned news agency in 2008.
Collins was one of hundreds interviewed for the job.
Though he has had to deal with dangerous situations on the job, including dodging guard dogs and talking down gun-wielding interviewees, Collins seems to enjoy the variety of his job.
“You never know where the day’s gonna take you,” Collins said.