Updated: October 12, 2022
Jim Acosta sums up his primary job as a journalist simply: “We are here to look out for you—our fellow citizens.” As CNN anchor and chief domestic correspondent, Acosta takes his first amendment right to both freedom of speech and freedom of the press seriously. He even authored a book about it, writing The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell Truth in America about his time spent covering the Trump administration as CNN’s chief White House correspondent.
He addressed the Boston College community last month as part of the Renewing Journalism, Restoring Democracy symposium, hosted by the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy. Both the Clough Center and the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics are exploring the intertwined topics of journalism and democracy during this academic year.
In his keynote speech entitled “Defenders of the People: The Case for a Strong, Free Press,” Acosta posed a question to the audience: what would it be like if the government could pick and choose the news? It’s not hard for him to imagine. When President Obama lifted restrictions on American travel to Cuba—a country where independent press is considered illegal—Acosta reported from Havana on the impact of the policy change. In this case, the political was also personal. Acosta’s father arrived in the United States as an 11-year-old Cuban refugee just weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“I’m a proud Cuban-American, but I don’t want America to become more like Cuba,” he shared, further emphasizing the importance of a free press for a healthy democracy.
That theme continues through the Winston Center’s biannual Clough Colloquium, which kicked off earlier in October with a talk by Dmitry Muratov, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and editor-in-chief of the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Muratov is no stranger to conversations regarding freedom of the press.
He co-founded the pro-democracy publication in 1993 and has served as its top editor for a quarter of a century in total. It is known for its reporting on governmental corruption and human rights violations—a brave endeavor in a country where many leading news channels are owned by the Russian government and journalists are often targeted for speaking out. Upon conferring the Nobel Peace Prize to Muratov, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said of the conditions facing journalists today that “freedom of expression…is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Beyond journalism and democracy, the Winston Center will explore themes of economic racism and food insecurity. On October 26, author and economic strategist Heather McGee will discuss her book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together in a talk co-sponsored by the Lowell Humanities Series, Park Street Corporation Speaker Series, and the PULSE Program for Service Learning.
Later in the semester, humanitarian and entrepreneur Komal Ahmad will bring her thoughts on solving the world’s hunger problem with mobile apps to this year’s Forum on Ethics, happening November 7.
Finally, on November 10, Anastasia Cole Plakias will deliver the Jane Jacobs Lecture. The co-founder and chief impact officer of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, Plakias also wrote the book The Farm on the Roof: What Brooklyn Grange Taught Us About Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Business and is working to make New York a greener and more sustainable place. The annual Jane Jacobs Lecture explores the challenges of political and community leadership in the urban context and is named for the legendary urbanologist and architecture critic who worked closely with the PULSE Program.