A mix of students and community members recently packed an audition at Seeley G. Mudd Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to hear April Ryan, the veteran newswoman who’s become nationally renowned since election of President Donald Trump in November.
Ryan spoke Tuesday, Sept. 12, as part of a Johns Hopkins series of forums on racial relations in America. The special event was dubbed “Race, Politics, and the Changing Face of Journalism.”
In a relaxed face-to-face interview with Tracey Reeves, Johns Hopkins director of
media relations, Ryan addressed an array of topics, including her personal relationship with the president to cramped conditions inside the James S. Brady White House Briefing Room where she and fellow journalists conduct press conferences.
During Ryan’s 20-year journalistic career, she has worked in various mediums including gospel, jazz and news radio in her native Baltimore, leading to her current gig as White House bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks (AURN).
When asked about her choices for a college major, in retrospect, Ryan told a student she’d first major in history or law, or other subjects away from journalism. She explained that becoming versed on a specific subject is generally beneficial in her field, adding that expertise in broadcast journalism could be gained at a latter stage in the educational process.
“Maybe [I’d] minor in journalism,” she said.
Regardless of her process, Ryan’s focus on education has paid off. In her current role at AURN, the northwest Baltimore native works for the only African-American media outlet in the White House, with a network of more than 300 stations nationwide and nearly 20 million listeners each week. She’s also a regular contributor and political analyst on CNN.
In 1985, she graduated from Baltimore’s Seton-Keough High School, a private Catholic high school that closed its doors for good last June due to decreased enrollments and increased operating costs.
When Reeves asked Ryan about her initial reaction when President Trump took office, she replied, “I knew it was going to be much different” than the previous administrations.
She noted that during Bill Clinton’s era, the Oval Office was literally accessible to the press. Things changed during George W. Bush’s terms, she said.
“Things were more closed-off, and it got even tighter during President Obama’s tenure,” she said.
When asked how she felt history will eventually judge Trump, Ryan quickly responded, “So far, hectic, chaotic and divisive.”
On the controversial topic of fake news, Ms. Ryan said the rise of Facebook is a major culprit in allowing non-journalists a vehicle to create and allow unconfirmed stories to reach vulnerable audiences.
She also briefly discussed a public rift between herself and Trump staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, a onetime friend before political differences created a split between their relationship. A verbal spat outside of former White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s office nearly got physical, Ryan said.
She said the president’s use of social media, namely Twitter, has become a “game-changer” primarily because in past administrations, press conferences generated official White House content.
Now, “you have to run around and be able to react quickly, because those tweets have now become ‘presidential’ — more than the press secretary,” Ryan said.
She said she that doesn’t feel obligated to only ask questions related to minority issues. Instead, she asks questions that affect the overall populous, but “if I need to go there, I will” — especially if vital issues pertinent to Blacks aren’t being addressed, she said.
She also noted that she’s received death threats in her role.
“Why? Because I ask valid questions? No, I’m not scared. Remember, I’m from Baltimore,” she said with a smile.