By David G. Wilson, MSU Spokesman Contributor
Whether she’s in the West Wing of the White House to greet the Dalai Lama, interviewing the president and first lady on Air Force One, or covering major events like Hurricane Katrina, April Ryan’s 30-year journalism career has been a trailblazing roller coaster.
Her ride that began at 1700 E Cold Spring Lane at Morgan State University and she’ll return to campus today to be honored as the speaker at the Founders Day Convocation today at 11:00am in the Murphy Fine Arts Center.
Ryan hadn’t always known what she wanted to do, but news became an early interest when she arrived at Morgan in the fall of 1995. She began working at WEAA along with WBGR as a disc jockey before she began reporting news.
While improving her skills, Ryan continued to enjoy her Morgan experience by frequently hanging out in the canteen in McKeldin.
Morgan is in her blood. Her late mother, Vivian Ryan, was the coordinator for student activities for 40 years. The two were close and Ryan would often visit her mother in her on-campus office.
“I could always go to her and ask her for a dollar [laughter], and always hang out with her and just talk to her,” said Ryan. “We were very close until she died.”
After graduating in 1989 with a degree in broadcast journalism, Ryan continued to work at WBGR. She left to spend 10 months reporting news in Chattanooga, Tennessee at a country radio station.
After working for a couple other radio stations and reporting news, Ryan made her way to Washington, DC and became a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks (AURN) in January of 1997. She reported on many key issues such as the Black Farmer Settlement and the ousting of the NAACP president Dr. Ben Chavis. She also covered the race initiative during the Clinton years.
Ryan was one of few journalists of color to cover the White House at the time. Other reporters recognized her for her asking the tough questions.
“April has no qualm asking the African American question that other reporters are either afraid to ask or might not think about” said William Douglass, a McClathcy Newspaper reporter.
Being a White House correspondent since 1997 Ryan has covered three different presidents since becoming a White House correspondent in 1997. She continuously keeps her audience interested and informed.
Sonya Ross, race and ethnicity editor of the Associated Press, said during the Clinton era reporters used the “Go to April Strategy.”
The press secretary recognized Ryan would sometimes ask a different type of question more specific to inquire issues of concern about the Black community. The White House would go to April for questioning to change the subject about investigation of scandal.
“But every now and then April would throw them a curve and continue the thread of questioning where it left off” said Ross.
Nonetheless, Ryan remains informative and unbiased in her reporting.
“When it comes to covering issues of the Black community, I feel very close to it but I’m also holding the same standards I do with any story trying to get the facts to inform,” she said. “My first and foremost idea is to inform, so that’s what I do, I try to inform.”
Like many Morgan students, Ryan was disinterested in her general classes.
“Humanities, that used to kill me, also some of my science and biology classes,” she said. “I was so happy when I finished those and could focus on classes in my major.”
When she got further into her major she worked hard and found success with the help of her Morgan professors.
“Dr. Maddox, Dr. Kennedy, Ms. Bowden…these professors loved us to success so it wasn’t just a teacher student relationship, they also incorporated love, they loved us to success.”
Now, Ryan starts her day at 5 a.m., reading emails, reading the news, watching the news, getting her two daughters Ryan (13) and Grace (8) ready for school. She talks to news makers, and interviews them.
“I use to enjoy it back in the day and now its work” Ryan jokingly laughs. “Its work that you have to really press hard for, and its real work, it affects everyone’s lives. You have to literally advance and try and get as much as you can to inform the public.”
As Ryan continues to inform she advises young journalists.
“I would say be a master of all things if you can and journalism is great, and take it for what it is, and ride the wave while you can.”