Stony Brook University hosted Ann Curry, the Emmy-winning international news correspondent and former anchor for NBC, at the Staller Center for the Arts for a Marie Colvin Distinguished Lecture on Tuesday, March 10.
Curry is a member of the advisory board for the School of Journalism’s Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting and has reported in Sudan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Darfur, Haiti, Rwanda and Japan. She most recently covered the nuclear arms talks with Iran in Geneva.
She has interviewed influential figures throughout her career, including General Tommy Franks directly from the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Afghanistan, and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Chadian President Idriss Déby while investigating ethnic cleansing in the area. She was also the first Western journalist to talk to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Curry took the stage with a talk about the relevance of journalism for the next generation. She spoke passionately about the ethics of journalism and the transforming role of news in the digital age.
With “page views, downloads, followers, and retweets,” as measures of popularity, as Curry described it, she made a point that the quality of the story is what should always come first.
“If no one knows about a thing, does it practically exist?” Curry said. “How does an uninformed world even begin to set it right?”
Although journalists might be considered a doomed population by some, Curry argued that with the rise of technology, the number of journalists has increased with the idea that everyone has a voice and that they have a duty to the world around them.
“Would Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen have been allowed to happen had YouTube and Twitter existed?,” she said. “I doubt it. The greatest weapon today against inhumanity is an uploaded video and the outrage it sparks.”
According to Curry, the standards of honorable journalism include obeying privacy laws, striving for accuracy, and protecting sources no matter the outcome, even if it means going to jail. Yet, one important ethic is often forgotten.
“I believe that being willing to stand up and fight for stories that matter to the world is a fundamental ethic of journalism,” Curry said.
Professor Steven Reiner, the Emmy Award-winning former producer of the CBS program “60 Minutes,” led the discussion with Curry, and the audience members were allowed to ask questions.
When asked to comment on Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News, who recently admitted to mistating the facts of a story he covered in Iraq, she chose not to speak on the subject.
The event brought in not only journalism students but members of the greater Stony Brook community of all ages.
“I think she spoke from the heart,” Elaine Cohen, a student of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for retired and semi-retired individuals, said. “I like what she represented. She represents the people she reports about, not herself. The people are the story. She’s not a celebrity.”
On the other end of the age spectrum was Emily Wicks, 15, of Ward Melville High School. She said she attended the lecture because her mother wanted her to see “a very successful woman” speak.
Curry discussed how the role of certain groups, including women, are evolving. She also noted that it used to be acceptable to see young kids begging for food or working for factories, a practice that today would be considered child abuse. She added that genocide was once a normal part of war, but is now considered a war crime.
“Your generation has seen humanity fall, and I am sorry that you are growing up in a time of terrorism and war, fear and cruelty,” Curry said. “But make no mistake,humankind is evolving towards greater empathy as a species. I’ve seen it in my lifetime and you will see it in yours.”