Journalist April Ryan speaks at NU on covering the Trump White House


Yunkyo Kim

April Ryan signs a copy of her new book, “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House” on Feb. 8.

Yunkyo Kim, news staff

Journalist and political analyst April Ryan talked about her experience as a black reporter in the current White House when she came to Blackman Auditorium Friday as a Winter Gateway Series speaker. Ryan discussed her new book, “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House” with moderator and NBC Boston news anchor Latoyia Edwards before heading to a signing in Gallery 360.

“I’ve been here 22 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before. Presidents and their press secretaries don’t always like what the reporters ask … but there’s decorum,” Ryan said during the event. “It is a sad day that any reporter has to ask a sitting United States president if [he is] racist.”

The annual Winter Gateway Series is an effort by Northeastern Crossing, a cross-departmental initiative that seeks to improve neighborhood relations through meet-and-greets, local artist exhibitions, gateway mixers and more. The program is in its third year, and last year hosted Black Lives Matter founder Shaun King as the speaker.

Ryan had sharp criticisms for President Donald J. Trump. “Under Fire” narrates the backlash Ryan received from the executive office for her direct line of questioning toward the president.

“You don’t tell a reporter what they can or cannot ask,” Ryan said. “[The administration] has tried to dig up information on me. I am boring. They try to smear me, but they can’t. You see what’s going up with Jeff Bezos. They can blackmail you … But you know what? You call them out. And what’s what this book is about.”

Rebecca Riccio, director of the Social Impact Lab — a co-sponsor organization of the event — praised Ryan’s resilience.

“I think it’s so important for people like April to stand up and demonstrate what it means to maintain courage, integrity and truth,” Riccio said. “You might think that because she’s a journalist, she has tough skin or that she’s signed up for the kind of abuse that she’s received, and that’s really not the case.”

Ryan’s words resonated with community members in attendance. Roxbury resident and NU alum Elizabeth Nagarajah, 52, said the conversation gave her more insight into the Trump presidency, partisan politics and the modern press.

“I think [the president] definitely has an agenda about who he wants to answer,” Nagarajah said. “Saying that all news is fake news if it’s not coming from the source that he wants, it’s going to be a challenge, and the more he continues to promote that, it’s not going to get better.”

Mia Vuckovich, a first-year political science major, said it is crucial for the NU community to protect the press.

“As for freedom of the press, in today’s political climate, it’s something that we’re not always entirely sure about,” Vuckovich said. “I hope that we, on a school level and the local level, can work to make sure that those institutions are protected and that that effect can be conveyed on the national level.”

In addition to her account of reporting on the White House through four presidencies, Ryan expressed hope for the future. She said the current administration became the impetus for many minorities to run as Democratic contenders in 2020, and hinted at upcoming candidacy announcements from some members of the Obama cabinet.

“I know it’s crazy. Look, we’ve got like five thousand people who are already on the stage. But it’s a beautiful thing,” she said. “The diversity, the women who believe they can run for president, all the different colors of the rainbow, the stories behind them — it’s no longer a white male-dominated game. We the people are joining in. But now, we are going to figure out who that one person is going to be.”