Deborah Amos, the 2013 James H. Ottaway Sr. Professor of Journalism at SUNY New Paltz, was introduced to the campus community by President Donald Christian this past Tuesday evening at the Honors Center.
President Christian interviewed Amos about her life and career as the NPR Middle East correspondent to an audience of about 80 people. Christian asked her five questions and then opened the floor to the audience for a question and answer session.
“I was very lucky to land at National Public Radio in 1977. Nobody knew who we were. It was a moment of wealth and expansion and experimentation and we could craft what radio was,” Amos said. “It’s been one of the most steady sources of news in the United States and I think I would’ve been surprised by that in 1977, but in 2013 we have 30 million listeners and growing because we have stuck to our core business, which is doing news.”
In 2003, Lisa Phillips, chair of the Ottaway Committee, knew that Amos was living in the area and kept her in mind as a future Ottaway professor.
“I knew she lived in Woodstock and I emailed her and I asked her ‘Would you ever be interested in this?’ and she said ‘yes’ and we got together,” Phillips said. “This was two or three years ago. We’ve wanted her since the first round of Ottaway interviews I did which was in 2010. Just getting all the timing right took until now.”
Phillips said Amos is able to fit in this two-week residency as part of the time NPR arranges for her.
“She also happens to have teaching and training experience with young journalists and that is great for our students because we need good teachers, even if for two weeks,” Phillips said.
Amos was awarded the George Foster Peabody Award from the University of Georgia this past March and in 2010, she received the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award from Washington State University.
“We had planned this for more than a year. She just won the two biggest prizes in broadcast journalism, so we would be crazy not to want someone like Deborah Amos if she’s available to come to be with us,” Phillips said.
Amos has visited several classes including feature writing, journalism I and radio journalism and plans to visit many more. She has also opened up her calendar to office hours when she isn’t teaching.
“She has a very commanding speaking style and you hear it on the air and you see it in the classroom. Plus she’s very willing and fascinated by the processes that the students are going through to figure out their print work and their radio work,” Phillips said. “We always look for something new in the Ottaway; something we haven’t offered before with the Ottaway professor and we hadn’t had a working radio journalist.”
Amos began her post-college career with television and worked in the field for 10 years, but it was through her shift from television to radio that she realized where her passion truly lied.
“You get the emotion of the image and you get the information of the print and that gets married into radio and there’s no other medium like it,” Amos said. “When I hear brilliant radio, I am moved by it.”
At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, Amos will give a public speech called “A Passport to the Middle East: A Career of Revolution, Upheaval and Hope” in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium.