KINGSTON, R. I. — May 8, 2006 — Without a robust, vigorous journalism profession, democracy won’t be vigorous and robust, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour told a group of University of Rhode Island journalism supporters.
The award-winning Amanpour helped ensure that journalism at URI remains robust when she spoke last week at The Providence Journal during a program to build support for three new URI Journalism endowment funds.
The native of Iran and 1983 graduate of the URI journalism program came to Kingston in 1980 quite by accident, but URI “changed my life forever, and it has a deep, deep, deep place in my heart.
“I am really, really thrilled to hear about the efforts to expand and rejuvenate this department at URI,” said Amanpour. “Wherever I go, people look to the United States and U.S. journalism as the model.”
Amanpour spoke before a gathering of URI officials and faculty members, publishers, editors and reporters, many of whom are graduates of the University’s journalism program, members of the Rhode Island Press Association, and the Rhode Island Broadcasters Association to help raise funds for visiting lecturers, student scholarships and a journalism speaker series. The effort is being led by the press association, in conjunction with the Division of University Advancement and the broadcasters association.
The goal is to build permanent endowments for each of the funds as part of the next URI capital campaign. The University offers the only bachelor’s degree in journalism in Rhode Island.
In her 23 years at CNN, Amanpour said in many parts of the world she has seen that journalism is part of grass roots movements to open societies and governments. Amanpour said journalism is not just a business, and that its focus should be service to the truth. In today’s fragmented media world, quality and seriousness are becoming important niches, she said.
“We shouldn’t be paying such attention to day-to-day ratings,” said the Emmy and Peabody award winner who started her career at WJAR’s Channel 10 in Providence.
“I have been saddened to see our profession diluted, trivialized and sensationalized, and we need to seize it back. (The business) needs to make a profit, but there is a limit. This is a public trust.”
Amanpour said news and journalism should not be competing against reality shows. “Journalism is not an automatic fame machine or an automatic money machine (for journalists). It takes hard work and it’s risky. It’s not popular to tell the truth.
“I deplore the U.S. government’s and federal courts’ assault on journalism and journalists,” she said referring to the action of jailing reporters when they don’t reveal confidential sources. “I come from Iran where there was no freedom of expression. It is completely inappropriate. Not only is it bad, it’s dangerous. We are the eyes and ears of the public.”
In response to a question about what young journalists need to succeed, Amanpour said they need to understand what journalism is; they must be fearless, hard workers and they must understand true objectivity.
She also said that strong journalism requires resources. “It’s not cheap to cover Iraq or other countries, and it’s not cheap to do investigative reporting,” Amanpour said.
“Good journalism enriches our communities, our governments and our citizens,” Amanpour said.
Those interested in supporting the URI Journalism Visiting Lecture Fund, Student Scholarship or Speaker Series should contact Thomas Zorabedian, senior development officer, URI College of Arts and Sciences, at 401-874-2853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.