Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News delivered the Thomas J. Volpe Lecture on Global Business and Finance to a packed auditorium of 300 people at St. Francis College Founders Hall this Monday.
Mitchell began her talk with the NBC News decision of just a few hours earlier that the information they have gathered about Iraq shows the country is now locked in a civil war. She said it was decided that the evidence was compelling and the only reasons to avoid the new label were political implications, not editorial.
A reporter of domestic and foreign affairs during five presidencies, Mitchell focused on the responsibilities reporters have when covering big stories like the Iraq War or Hurricane Katrina. She said sometimes it is appropriate for reporters to cross the emotional line during enormous tragedies as we saw over and over during coverage of Katrina. Mitchell's first exposure to "the big story" was also her first major international assignment, covering the Jonestown Massacre in 1978. She admitted she did not do the best job reporting possible and that the story did affect her personally.
A native of New York and life long Yankees fan, Mitchell spoke about first breaking into what was then a male-dominated profession, beginning as a "copy boy" for a Philadelphia paper. Her work now regularly appears on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Today and on both CNBC and MSNBC
Other topics included the admission that journalists were swept up by popular opinion in the run up to the Iraq War and that they placed too much trust in what people like then Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters. Mitchell said journalists are now doing the job of telling the stories in Iraq that they couldn't do before.
Mitchell also addressed the thin line between reporters and pundits and the confusion that can be caused when objective reporters take on both roles, something she does from time to time and of which she is very conscious.
Past speakers in the Volpe Lecture Series include Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration for the movie, Hotel Rwanda, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Lech Walesa, Nobel Prize Winner and former President of Poland.
Thomas J. Volpe is the Chairman Emeritus of the St. Francis College Board of Trustees. He is former Senior Vice President of Financial Operations for The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. Currently he is Senior Advisor at Babcock & Brown.
St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201