Ann Curry recounts career spent bringing attention to the voiceless

ann curry speaking
Journalist Ann Curry speaking on the campus of Washington State University, Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

In recognition of a career that began as the first female news reporter at a small Oregon TV station and included reports from some of the world’s most imperiled regions, Ann Curry received the Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism at the 46th Murrow Symposium.

“I can’t tell you how deeply touching this is,” Curry told the audience inside the CUB Senior Ballroom Tuesday night. “This award is so prestigious precisely because it is named for a journalist with high ideals.”

Audience members were treated to a video compilation of Curry’s career, which began at then-NBC affiliate KTVL in Medford, Oregon. Curry moved on to Portland, where she worked as a reporter and anchor before moving again to Los Angeles to work at KCBS-TV, where between 1984 to 1990, she won two Emmy Awards. She went on to have success as a correspondent and anchor for various NBC programs, including the Today Show, Dateline NBC and NBC Nightly News.

Curry dedicated much of her time at the podium to sharing stories of reporting from sites of human and natural disasters. It was learning about the Holocaust in school, and the fact that news organizations weren’t reporting about the existence of Nazi concentration camps in real time, that drove her to shine a light on those who were suffering, allowing them to speak to an audience that would otherwise never have heard them.

“My deepest wish was to be in a position to have a voice, that I could have the power to help other people who suffer and who have little or no voice,” Curry said.

She recounted an experience in Darfur when she was overcome by a sense of shame upon taking a photograph of a boy in rags whose trauma was visible in his eyes. However, another survivor stepped up and thanked her for doing so, saying that now the world will know they exist. Reports like these would often prompt strong emotional reactions from audiences, underscoring the importance of showing viewers what was going on in places ravaged by war, genocide and natural disaster.  

Curry’s deeply empathetic reporting was highlighted by several speakers during the event, including Murrow College of Communication Dean Bruce Pinkleton and WSU System President Kirk Schulz.

“(Ann’s) work contributed to our understanding of many of the world’s most pressing issues,” Schulz said in his remarks, running through an extensive list of countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Israel and more.

Provost, Executive Vice President and WSU Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton highlighted the critical role journalists play in the health and function of free societies and gave audiences perspective on the award’s namesake, Edward R. Murrow. Murrow’s reporting career spanned from the 1940s through the early 60s, with much of it focused on truth-telling even when it made audiences uncomfortable.

During her remarks and in responses to questions posed by Pinkleton, Curry challenged today’s journalism students to strive to be like Murrow in a world challenged by misinformation and bombastic but shallow reporting.  

“From this troubled time, a new generation of journalists will emerge, who will build smarter and better ways to open eyes and ears to each other,” Curry said.

Ann Curry speaking at podium
Journalist Ann Curry speaking on the campus of Washington State University, Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

More information on the Murrow Symposium can be found on the College of Communication’s website.

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