Sitting on the Sidelines is So Yesterday


By: Marissa Guercio and Lindsay Straub

Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent for CNN, received the 2008 Marist College Lowell Thomas Award. Amanpour was honored at a luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan on Friday, Nov. 14.

Prior to the luncheon, Amanpour participated in a round table discussion with Marist students including members of the The Circle and Student Government Association. Tim Massie, Chief public affairs officer for Marist, brought students from his organizational writing class to the luncheon as well. Amanpour talked about the state of journalistic affairs and the need for good reporting, and offered her advice to students.

As citizen journalism and iReporting become more popular, Amanpour stressed the need for knowledgeable and intelligent journalists. She said that citizen journalists should never substitute for educated journalists.

“Good journalists tell vital stories from vital places that deeply impact America,” said Amanpour. “Such journalists bring back real stories that will help electorate understand and support its government and policies.”

For all young people, Amanpour offered this advice: “TRAVEL!”

Marist senior Julie Lavin said Amanpour was a very inspirational and graceful speaker.

“I felt very honored and privileged to be in her presence,” said Lavin. “It was interesting to hear the advice she gave to us as students and as prospective players in the field of communications.”

The CNN correspondent said that we must understand our role in an increasingly globalized world.

“If you have the means, and I believe that all of you do, go out there, find your story and bring it home,” said Amanpour. “You just have to decide that it’s really what you want to do.”

Later in the discussion, Amanpour spoke about the basis for a “compelling” story.

“Storytelling is the backbone of what we do as journalists,” said Amanpour. “It is the means in which people have communicated throughout history.”

Amanpour continued to say that in order to tell a compelling story, journalists need to find dramatic context and the best people to tell that story. They must then make other people understand how that story relates to their own lives.

In attendance was Dr. Mark Van Dyke, associate professor of communication, who said that he met Amanpour during his time in Bosnia as chief of public information for NATO’s peace operations.

“During a press conference I held in Bosnia, I can remember Christiane asking me those critical questions to get more than a story, but to get the truth,” said Van Dyke.

In her 18 years as an international correspondent, Amanpour has reported on all the major crises from the world’s many hotspots, including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans, and the United States during Hurricane Katrina.

This was the 20th presentation of the Marist College Lowell Thomas Award, which recognizes outstanding individuals in the communications industry whose lives and work reflect the imagination, courage, ambition, and humanity of Lowell Thomas.

Noted for his passion and innovative spirit Thomas, like Amanpour, has traveled to the far corners of the world to capture a reality unfamiliar to those at home.

During her acceptance speech, Amanpour referred back to the advice she gave students and noted the value of active minds and people who work from a grassroots mentality.

“Sitting on the sidelines is so yesterday,” said Amanpour.

Below is some commentary from Marist students who were fortunate enough to hear Christiane Amanpour speak.

“Christiane Amanpour is a brilliant woman and very deserving of the Lowell Thomas Award. She was very enthusiastic to share her incredible experiences with the students and was very candid with what she had to say. As we move towards an increasingly global society, strong journalists like Amanpour will be crucial in educating the public about foreign affairs.” – Andrew Goss

“The one thing that everyone I spoke with about Christiane agreed upon was that she was very well spoken, and knew exactly what she was talking about. Being able to sit with her and listen to her advice and her experiences was a great opportunity, and I wish we could have had more time with her. I think the best advice she gave was when she told us that no matter what our major, we should take time to travel. This was great advice, especially coming from someone who has done so much traveling and come in contact with some of the most fascinating cultures our world has to offer.” -Kait Smith

“After meeting Christiane Amanpour, I took away some valuable advice. I thought it was great advice when she said to travel to unknown destinations even though your parents may not like it. It’s a great way to get to know another culture and maybe even to find a job there. Although it’s all hard for us to leave our family there comes a point when we all have to and she definitely made that known to each of us. Whether it’s traveling for three months or a year she said to take advantage of it which I feel was great advice.” -Allison Bucci

“Christiane served as a poignant reminder of someone’s ability to accomplish so much and remain inspiringly relevant to young people. The same human focus for which she’s told so many great stories allowed her to share a powerful message with the Marist community.”-Billy Burke

“The most wonderful thing about Christiane Amanpour is that she is a very humble and down-to-earth person. Even while accepting an award for herself she still managed to tell a compelling story that put everything into the world around us.” –James Marconi


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