CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins Says, "You've Got To Get Up Before The Tweets"
"I never thought I’d be covering the White House. I never thought I’d be covering the White House for CNN. And I never thought I’d be covering the White House for CNN while Donald Trump was president," says Kaitlan Collins, 28, with a laugh. “So when people say, ‘Don’t make plans; don’t have expectations,’ I am living proof of that. It’s so important to be ready for whatever is going to be thrown at you.”
The Alabama native joined the network in 2017 and a year later was already temporarily banned from the Oval Office for asking the president questions (about lawyer Michael Cohen and Russian president Vladimir Putin) that he didn’t feel were appropriate. “It didn’t take long,” she jokes about the ousting.
The whiplash-inducing news cycle of this year has resulted in Collins’s working pretty much nonstop while overcoming endless unforeseen challenges. The impeachment trial demanded 18-hour days. And since the pandemic hit, she’s required to wear a mask and get her temperature checked every time she goes to the White House. After the death of George Floyd and the outrage that followed it, Collins was navigating the protests while en route to White House press conferences. “It’s so much to take in, but it is something that you realize everyone is dealing with on some level,” says Collins.
Preparation helps her to stay grounded, as do her regular 45-minute workouts. “I read everything constantly, and I am always on the phone with people that [Trump] is on the phone with. I watch a lot of shows that I know he is going to be watching because that also helps.” Sleeping six hours a night is just fine with her because “you’ve got to get up before the tweets.”
Adding to her sense of security is the camaraderie she feels with her fellow reporters. “When Trump took office, it didn’t matter if you’d covered the White House for 10 years or 10 minutes,” says Collins. “No one knew what to expect. We would be told about press conferences a few minutes before. When someone gets fired and you see three TV reporters running out to the cameras in front of the White House, we are looking at each other like, ‘Here we go again!'”
While it would be easy to get flustered given the breakneck pace and the president’s unpredictable behavior, Collins maintains that the job is bigger than her. “I’m here as more of a vehicle for the American people. What information do they want from the White House? What do they want to see from these taxpayer-funded officials? What’s most important is that we don’t waver in our coverage. How he reacts to it doesn’t affect the questions we ask or how we report something.”
In fact, the only thing in Collins’s job that might need a fix is her overused gadgetry. “When I get my weekly screen-time reports from Apple, it’s disturbing,” she says. “The other day my iPhone congratulated me for successfully having 0 percent of screen time, which was obviously not true. I don’t even know if it’s working anymore. I think I broke it.”
For more stories like this, pick up the August issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download July 17.