Host, Capital Tonight; Editor, State of Politics
Liz Benjamin grew up taking New York politics for granted—so when she got out of college, it never occurred to her to pursue it.
“I fell into this by mistake. I didn’t even read the newspaper,” said the woman who became one of the state’s preeminent political journalists. “I was waiting tables at the New Paltz diner.”
Benjamin’s father, a political science professor at SUNY New Paltz, is a renowned expert on New York politics. So when the publisher of the local paper ordered an omelet and fries one morning, he asked her what Gerald Benjamin’s daughter was doing there—and she ended up with a job.
Within a few years she was working at the Albany Times Union and noticed Ben Smith had launched one of the earliest New York political blogs—prompting her to follow in his footsteps.
“I started seeing it and thinking, ‘I don’t know what this is, but we have to get on it,’ ” she said. “It took up more and more of my time.”
She later succeeded Smith as the Daily News’ political blogger and wrote a widely followed column on state politics before trying her hand at TV for the YNN cable network upstate—while launching their State of Politics blog as well.
A serious triathlete, Benjamin gets up at 5 a.m. to blog dozens of morning headlines before a two-hour workout, and keeps a frenetic pace throughout the day as she tries to stay a step ahead of her ever-growing competition.
“Some people remember TV jingles. I happen to remember random things about politics,” she said. “I can connect the dots more quickly. That’s my father’s influence, and it’s a weird quirk of mine.”
How did you get your start? I kind of fell into it. I thought I wanted to be an environmental lawyer, even though I didn’t know what an environmental lawyer was. I wanted to change the world. I’m argumentative and nosy by nature. It’s a way to be argumentative and nosy and get paid for it.
On balance, has being a woman helped or hurt? It’s harder to be a woman in politics. You have to work harder. You can make fewer mistakes. Things that are viewed as normal for men—going out at night, having a one-onone dinner with a lawmaker—are viewed differently for a woman.
What is the worst advice anyone ever gave you?
I don’t listen to anyone’s advice but my dad. And he always gives me good advice.
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