PBS NewHour Co-anchor and Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown shed light on his experiences in the television industry Tuesday night in Whitley Auditorium for the 11th annual James P. Elder lecture at Elon University,
In his lecture titled “Politics and Poetry: One Reporter’s Notebook," he immediately connected with the college audience by reflecting on his academic life at the University of California and his love for visiting college campuses.
“People always ask me if doing live television every night is scary, but I say no," Brown said. "What does wake me up in the middle of the night is the thought that I still have to finish a five-page term paper."
Though Brown is highly regarded for his journalistic work in broadcast, it is his poetry that separates him from others in his field. Brown talked about meeting an imam in Timbuktu who was more impressed with him being a poet than a news correspondent. He also travelled to Jerusalem and met a man named Steven Grossman. Brown was particularly inspired by Grossman, who wrote about relationships, intimacy and jealousy instead of bombings and violent conflict that was going on in his country.
“These two taught me to question how can we restore and revitalize the human being inside? [sic]” Brown said.
But Brown first embraced poetry and the study of humanities after taking a college class called "European Poetry and Classical Mythology." In the class, he studied ancient Greek and Latin. He said he found the key to understanding the past and connecting that past to the present.
He also talked about his trip to Haiti after its earthquake when cholera began to spread. Brown said he can still remember an encounter with a man who had recently lost his son. The man compared himself to a bird without a branch to land on.
Interactions with others and deep conversations such as this one remain highly important for Brown. He promoted college as the perfect place to hold meaningful conversations that widen perspectives.
“It’s incumbent on us, whatever our chosen fields, to broaden these fields," Brown said.
When a student in attendance asked about the changing business models as they cater to online media, Brown said media is dividing people up by only allowing them access to certain information. He expressed his sadness for the disappearance of water cooler discussions — an environment that allowed members of a community to come together to talk about the pressing issues of the day.
On another hand, Brown sees the accessibility of the Internet also as an opportunity to expand one’s worldview.
“You must open yourself up from just those niches you want to be a part of,” he said.
After another member of the audience asked Brown about Washington D.C.’s current environment, he affirmed this presidential race is the most interesting one he has ever covered.
“It’s a horse race, but it’s the most exciting and unusual horse race in a long time,” he said.
Nearing the conclusion of the event, Brown advised audience members to continue looking at issues from all perspectives and sources. As a poet, he suggested the use of studying the humanities side of politics. With this idea in mind, he remains optimistic about the future of journalism during this time of deep division in the United States.