Citizenship Tour Students Cover All Things Journalism with Speakers from The New York Times, NBC News, and The Atlantic

Our Citizenship Tour students had a packed day of conversations on Tuesday, speaking with New York Times Opinion Special Projects Editor Meeta Agrawal, Pulitzer Prize winning critic Wesley Morris, NBC News Anchor Lester Holt, Senior Director of NBC News Brett Holey, and National Editor at The Atlantic Scott Stossel.

During the day’s first meeting with The New York Times, Wesley Morris and Meeta Agrawal spoke about their journalism careers and the power of art and pop culture to shape and reflect our values. “The way that I see the world and the things that I find interesting are different than some of my colleagues,” reflected Agrawal, who previously served as Deputy Editor at Entertainment Weekly and Arts & Leisure Editor at the NYT. Morris spoke about his interest in “how to use criticism morally, how to talk about the ways in which art and popular culture shape our values, reflect our values, and the ways in which it can be gatekept.”

Our second session of the day was with NBC News Anchor Lester Holt and Senior Director at NBC News Brett Holey. We were fortunate to be able to speak with Holt before he headed to Tokyo to cover the Summer Olympics!

He spoke to our group about his career path, the importance of journalism today, his experiences covering the pandemic, and more. “Compassion to me is a very big part of what we do,” reflected Holt. “We parachute ourselves into people at the lowest points of their lives and I try to approach these stories with some humility and compassion.” When speaking about the pandemic Holt noted, “I’ve covered some of the worst tragedies, but this was the first time I was covering a story for which I was feeling the same threat as the people I was talking to. We were, and to some extent are, all in this together.”

We wrapped up our busy Tuesday with a conversation with Scott Stossel, National Editor at The Atlantic. Stossel shared some history about the magazine, its abolitionist roots, and then reflected on his personal career. Our students were also particularly curious to hear Stossel’s perspectives on mental health. In addition to editing at The Atlantic, Stossel is the author of the New York Times bestseller My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind.

It was an inspiring and insightful day that left our students with lots to think about!

A highlight for Alana from Racquet Up Detroit was hearing Agrawal’s and Morris’ recommendations. “To uplift Asian Americans after the recent rise of hate crimes, we got the inside scoop on films that Meeta Agrawal and Wesley Morris find very interesting that features and/or highlights Asian-Americans.”

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