Kate O'Brian delivers inspiring address at the annual Robert G. McGruder guest lecture
On Wednesday, Kate O’Brian, president of Al Jazeera America, was honored at the 12th annual Robert G. McGruder awards lecture and luncheon, with the distinguished guest lecture award. The award recognizes the accomplishments of media professionals who encourage diversity in the field of journalism. The luncheon and lecture are co-sponsored by Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
O’Brian, who was named the first President of Al Jazeera America in 2013, is one of only two women who currently lead a network. During her lecture, O’Brian stressed the importance of having different perspectives in order to explore all sides of a story.
“The more we continue on this path of diversity stasis, the worse it gets for the public, not just for us,” O’Brian said. “It is simply good business to represent our audiences. To gain more audience, we must effectively tell stories of the community, tell stories of the people who will be buying our paper, turning on our channel or clicking on our website.”
O’Brian shared that growing up she never considered herself unequal because her parents instilled in her and her sister the importance of global awareness and diversity, but that she faced gender discrimination early in career.
“It had never occurred to me that I would not be afforded equal consideration with anybody else as I moved from the academic environment to the professional one,” she said. "I remember when a fellow colleague in the newsroom told me, 'I miss the days when broads weren't in Broadcasting' and hearing that, I knew that it was going to a hard fight to the top."
In addition to sharing personal experiences, O’Brian offered words of advice to students wishing to pursue a career in journalism.
“Start from a position of strength and know that you are equal to your peers.”
Watch the one-on-one interview with Kate O’Brian.
Watch the 2015 Robert G. McGruder Distinguished Lecture and Awards video.
Check out photos for the event.