Award-Winning Journalist Caitlin Dickerson

By Lakin Allen

The California State University-Long Beach graduate Caitlin Dickerson has been listed on Forbes 30 under 30 for Media in 2019. According to Forbes, the Brooklyn, New York residing journalist “has been a force in the coverage of deportation and detention policy and the status of separated migrant families.” A Phi Beta Kappa member, Dickerson completed her Bachelor of Arts in international studies and Spanish in 2011. Post-graduate life included an internship at NPR where she eventually was hired on as a producer and promoted to investigative reporter. At NPR in 2015, she “led a Peabody Award-winning investigation into a secret mustard gas experiment conducted on American troops during World War II, prompting a law to compensate test subjects for their resulting injuries.” 

Since then, the accomplished Dickerson has made a name for herself as a national immigration reporter for The New York Times and a political analyst for CNN. Over the past three years at the Times, Dickerson has broken several stories on the deportation and detention of undocumented immigrants. 

In June 2019 at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, Dickerson reflected on her work and the influence of sourcing, or “the practice of building sources of information for articles”; she states how she believes anyone “writing about this topic [immigration] needs to have a really robust set of sources” because techniques that reporters are used to relying on, such as data analysis, don’t apply in this reporting environment. Dickerson claims “the vast majority of family separations that were originally conducted were not even documented by the government.” This compelled her even more to learn about the conditions that separated children were living in at a massive tent city in Tornillo, Texas. After publishing an article about the situation and lack of regulation, Dickerson says “the details really struck readers and contributed to a strong backlash against what was happening in Tornillo, which ultimately resulted in the facility being shuttered.” 

As well as reporting stories that shed light on the reality of immigration, Dickerson is also a frequent guest on The New York Times podcast “The Daily” and has hosted several episodes.

For the accomplished journalist she is, Dickerson didn’t always dream of this career. In a 2016 interview, Dickerson shared how she thought she would go to law school after graduation. All this changed, however, during her internship with NPR. While shadowing Guy Raz’s show “Weekend All Things Considered” one day, Dickerson recalls having “really vivid memories of that day because it was a pivotal this-is-what-I-want-to-do-with-my-life kind of moment.” From that moment forward, the intrepid reporter hasn’t looked back. Her impactful stories have seen families reunited, Congressional laws passed, and border facilities shut down. Inspirational only scratches the surface, and Dickerson plans to continue her award-winning work, claiming winning a Peabody this early in her career has made her “excited to channel that extra energy into [her] work.”     

In a 2016 interview, Dickerson also shared a few secrets of her success: 

  1. Run — don’t walk — through every door that opens up to you.
  2. Ask for advice. 

The New York Times reporter has run through every door opened to her and admittedly asks for a lot of advice from colleagues whose work she admires. She has a passion for global storytelling and in a 2019 interview acknowledges that at the U.S. border, “the reality is messy.” Dickerson says she works hard to “reflect the wide variety of reasons why people come to the U.S. and of backgrounds that people have.” With new conversations over immigration policies happening every day, the immigration expert has many stories ahead of her. You can keep up with her on twitter @itscaitlinhd. 

ΦBK member Lakin Allen is a senior at the University of Kansas majoring in journalism with minors in Spanish and Italian. She loves traveling the world and meeting new people over a good cup of coffee (or gelato!). She hopes to use her degree to continue learning from and sharing people’s stories. The University of Kansas is home to the Alpha of Kansas Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.