by Britta Muzyk-Tikovsky – May 19, 2021
Diamonds are the hardest and toughest material in the world. They are also a symbol for reliability and endurance – growing some 400 kilometers inside the earth’s fiery hot volcanic mother rock and brought to the surface by eruptions. For some, diamonds are a best friend. Others are diamonds themselves, formed over time through their tireless work ethic, unfailing e dedication and ability to respond to even the harshest of challenges. The purest among them defy flaws by staying true to their self-set cause.
Ann Curry, a multi-award-winning journalist and photojournalist, is a former NBC News Network anchor, international correspondent, and trusted interviewer. Numerous events form the facets of her journalistic career, which spans more than three decades. She has reported on conflicts, genocides and tension on nuclear programs, humanitarian disasters and environmental and human rights challenges.
Many chiefs of state in countries torn apart by conflict, among them Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Saddam Hussein’s close advisor and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, have answered Curry’s questions in exclusive and news breaking interviews. The four US Presidents who served from January 1989 through January 2017, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, George Walker Bush and Barack Obama, have sat across from her interview desk.
Ann Curry Interviewing Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Photo by Mike Simon
Some of the world’s most influential advocates of civil and human rights, including the Dalai Lama, Maya Angelou and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, or Hollywood icons Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and Brad Pitt discussed with her the challenges facing humanity and how to solve them. Curry’s work has taken her to many countries in the Middle East and around the globe, such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Serbia or North Korea.
Venturing to the Arctic, Antarctic, Japan and the South Pole she has interviewed scientists and native peoples documenting the impact of climate change visibly seen in glaciers melting and land in western states in the U.S. increasingly drying up. South Africa and Botswana saw her focusing on the AIDS epidemic, while in Somalia and Kenya she uncovered and reported on terrorist networks. Her stories have always served one central goal: to provide objective information about the issues facing humanity in the modern age.
How did she become the journalist trusted by both people in power and members of the public? What skills should aspiring journalists acquire in order to create impactful stories, deliver reports that have the power to change?
During Collision, one of the world’s largest tech conferences to connect people and ideas that can change the world, I was honored to be one of the first German authors to interview Ann Curry and find out.
In her early teens, Curry reveals, she learned one of two important lessons. Speaking with her father about what career she would want to pursue in future he gave her this advice: “The most important thing is to find something that is of service for the people.” Because then, at the end of her life, she could say that it had mattered that she was born. The second lesson was provided by a senior and somewhat grumpy journalist as her career began to take shape. He cautioned her not to trust anyone, not even her mother. While this might seem a little over the top, there is truth to it.
“Everybody has a reason for telling you a story. They have a purpose in mind when sharing it with you and it’s their side of the story,” agrees Curry. Therefore, it is paramount to research stories as thoroughly as possible. Only by viewing stories from different angles and hearing opposing sides will they be told right. And Curry is convinced that this is a crucial function of journalism: to protect the public by telling the truth.
“The most important thing is to find something that is of service for the people.”
In the 1990s, Curry set out to report on truths that were happening in faraway places, removed from the gaze of her fellow citizens. “There was not a turning point or a one-time calling,” she muses. But past experiences of her mother who came from a war zone had an influence on her decision. Curry’s parents were born on opposite sides of the world.
Her father was an American who pursued a career in the Navy. Her mother saw the light of day in Japan, where she survived bombing and would meet and marry her husband years later. When her father got stationed in Guam, an unincorporated territory of the US located in the Western Pacific, they moved there. The largest of the Mariana islands, Guam had been captured by the Japanese from the US after the Pearl Harbor attack and won back by American forces close to the end of the Second World War. It was here that Curry was born, the eldest of five siblings. Several years later the family moved to the US.
It was the true story of war, received first-hand from her mother, that nurtured her dedication. “The main reason to go to countries with conflicts was to create awareness for human suffering overseas,” says Curry. She wanted to cover stories focusing on people who were little heard.
South Sudan. Photo: Envato.
“People who had to endure so much, who were treated unjustly and unfairly and didn’t have people in power who protected them.” Indeed, it often was worse. Those in power wanted to hide the true stories of their fellow citizens. “They would make almost every effort to keep you from telling the truth. And the truth is, now and then, that harm is caused by humans – more than often by those who want to further increase their power by pursuing ethnic cleansing.”
The journalist in her whose upbringing had given her a strong sense for right and wrong had found her calling. Equipped with empathy and courage she set out with a team to report on conflicts, genocides, and humanitarian disasters. Despite being shot at in countries like Somalia and dodging bombs in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, in Lebanon or Syria, she strove always to uncover the truth.
One time in Darfur saw her sneak across the border while trying to avoid attacks from hostile parties who approached in helicopters, military vehicles or sometimes mounted on a horse. Mastering the risk made it possible for her to see and document the vast suffering of black African tribes there. Bringing these stories to life was important, but not on account of those who joined her on her missions. While hunting down the facts she and her team tried to stay out of harm’s way which was, in the first place, not intended for them.
Ann Curry and George Clooney Heading Into Darfur. Photo by Mike Simon
“Yes, we took risks,” admits Curry. “We could always get caught in a dangerous situation as nothing was really predictable.” But you can’t report on a crisis from the safety of your sofa. One time, she recalls, in a Darfur refugee camp, she stood against the sun and a young boy who saw her and might have been frightened, dropped to his knees, looking up at her. He was in rags, unbathed and dirt-stained – a stark contrast to Curry in clean clothes, and with the memory of her early morning shower still lingering in the air.
Out of instinct, Curry raised her camera and took a shot. “Instantly I was befallen by a feeling of guilt that almost mortified me,” she admits. “I thought, how could I take a photo of this boy, intruding on his privacy?” A man who had stood nearby and witnessed the scene approached to say just two words: “Thank you!”
Before she could answer, he continued: “Thank you for capturing this. Thank you for telling our story and for appreciating the value of other human beings.” Nowadays where anybody can capture a scene with their smartphone the message contained in Curry’s story cannot be overstated. The people you report on look into your eyes, reaching far into your soul to decipher the true nature of your intentions. Real journalism is nothing without credibility.