On the morning of Wednesday, March 2, I sat among 25 other University of Oregon (UO) School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) students awaiting our instructor’s arrival. Although the setup was like any other classroom on any given day, the instructor was far from ordinary. We were waiting eagerly to hear words of wisdom from one of the SOJC’s best-known alumni, accomplished broadcast journalist Ann Curry.
The event wasn’t the usual for Curry, either. She wasn’t in front of the camera. She wasn’t in an exclusive interview with a foreign leader. Instead, she was leading an impromptu class for a couple dozen young multimedia journalists while she was in Eugene for a UO Board of Trustees meeting.
As expected, Curry delivered advice — a mix of personal anecdotes about reporting overseas, unforgettable insights and pieces of wisdom — that resonated with her student audience. “If you fight for the stories that matter, then your work will matter,” she said. In the silence that followed this statement, the passion in her voice — the same passion that shows in Curry’s work — reverberated throughout the small room.
Curry spoke of many things that day, but her main emphasis was on the importance of making real connections and maintaining accuracy. She confirmed it’s true that journalism is “the first rough draft of history,” and she described it as “an act of faith for the future.”
Curry put much emphasis on how deep, real connections change the world. A journalist’s job, she said, is to create an informed public. But her way of informing the public is by first establishing a human connection so her viewers can better understand the serious issues she is uncovering.
Understanding what questions to ask is another key part of a journalist’s job. Curry told us, “If you can look at people as your family, you will know what questions to ask.” Looking at your sources in this way can help you maintain their human dignity while reporting and establish a deep connection that will make the story more engaging to the audience as well.
If connections help you build trust and your reputation as a journalist, accuracy is what maintains that trust. Curry admonished her students to always triple-check their facts. If you’re wrong, she said, your job as a journalist is over.
As the 2015-16 recipient of the Ann Curry Electronic Media Scholarship, I was reminded that morning of how honored I am to receive a scholarship from someone of Curry’s experience and prestige. She was once an SOJC student like me. She hailed from the small town of Ashland, Oregon, with big dreams that eventually came true. She was the first female reporter to work at the news station where she held her first job. Since then, she has worked for NBC as an anchor and international correspondent, traveling around the world and garnering global respect as a journalist in the process. Her words and her story have inspired me, as a female journalist, to “fight for the stories that matter” no matter the circumstances.
Story by Shirley Chan ’17, 2015-16 Ann Curry Electronic Media Scholar