Alex Wagner, co-host and executive producer of the hit political television series “The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth,” discussed her views on the recent midterm elections, her extensive career as a journalist and her new memoir “Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging” at a Branford College Tea Tuesday.
During her conversation with roughly 30 attendees of all ages, Wagner led a discussion about the most recent midterm elections. She highlighted “the pink wave” in state and national politics — a wave of women who ran for office this cycle. Many of these women, she said, took a “moderate attitude” toward President Donald Trump instead of campaigning aggressively for his impeachment. According to Wagner, many of the female candidates stressed that in America, “things are broken, and someone needs to go and fix them.”
Wagner took an audience poll, asking those who voted in the recent election to raise their hands. Only around half of attendees raised their hands. The exercise began a discussion in which attendees shared their own opinions about the importance of voting. At the talk, Wagner said that as a reporter, she gets to watch history unfold on the front lines in real time.
“The best part of being a journalist is getting a front-row seat to history,” she said. “It’s a reality of being a journalist in this day and age that you have to get everything, which is exhausting, but the way we consume information across platforms so we want to be disseminating the work we have to do everywhere.”
In addition to her role as national correspondent for CBS News, Wagner is also a contributing editor and co-host of a weekly podcast for The Atlantic, where her recent investigative coverage has centered around the Trump administration, migrant children and immigration. Wagner told the audience that podcasting adds a new level of depth to journalism.
“I love podcasting because I get to have a longer, more in-depth conversation,” Wagner said. “I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done at The Atlantic because I think it’s very, very good journalism that’s thoughtful and really important in this time.”
Wagner also briefly discussed her new memoir “Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging,” an introspective exploration of her Burmese-American mixed-race identity and complicated ancestry. Within her book, she reports on the advent of DNA tourism along with stories of her own family’s complex origins.
She said she developed the title long ago, from a cover in Time magazine.
“In high school, this Time magazine cover came out and it said, ‘The New Face of America,’ and I remember thinking, ‘That’s me! I’m this Futureface! Who cares where I’m from? I’m just the future of America,’” Wagner said. “That was satisfying up to a point, except that everybody wants to belong somewhere and to something, which is what we’re going through as a country right now.”
According to Wegner, though it is exhausting, the nature of news today necessitates a multimedia approach. Wagner has involved herself in a variety of news media — including television shows, a podcast, cable news, books and traditional print journalism.
As the college tea came to an end, Wagner was asked, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, what she was thankful for.
“I’m thankful for my family, I’m 4 1/2 months pregnant,” she said, “The one thing about these times when everything feels so chaotic and crazy, and the country feels like it’s full of strangers, is to be home with the people who love you, that could speak in shorthand and always have your back, is like the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Student attendees interviewed by the News said they found Wagner’s remarks on elections extremely engaging. Carol Schaller, a Branford College fellow, said she was interested in the tea “because the stress [she] experienced from the Trump presidency was so great.”
Joseph Peck ’21, one of the attendees, described the premise of the first few seasons of Wagner’s television show, “The Circus,” as a platform where “boys who drink beer and eat food talk about politics.” But Peck said that adding Wagner to the mix of co-hosts on the show diversified the boys club.
Wagner also spoke as part of a panel, titled “#MeToo Evolving: People, Politics + Power. Now” at the Loria Center Tuesday evening.
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