By Sofia Bonin
On Sept. 21 Stephen A. Kurkjian visited Simmons College to speak about the importance of investigative journalism and his 40 years of experience in the field of journalism. Kurkjian spent his career working for the Boston Globe and was a founder of the Spotlight Team. He received the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting both in 1972 and 1980. He spoke of his career and his belief in reporting to emphasize the importance of keeping investigative journalism alive. In today’s media climate, news needs to be instantaneous and easily accessible to the masses. As a result pieces are published rapidly and it is rare to see any big picture stories surface.
“I am a Boston boy” Kurkijan reminded students as he began to speak about his time growing up in the city. He grew up in Dorchester and came from a lower to middle class immigrant family. His father was an artist who survived the Armenian genocide. Living in Dorchester taught Kurkijan right and wrong. He saw that his Dorchester neighborhood received poor representation in city hall, there was a lack of police patrol, and roads were left unplowed during the winter. He spent most of his youth wondering why some voices were valued more than others, leading him to find his voice through writing. His father’s ambition and success had showed him that the American dream was alive and well. “It was vivid, it was technical, it was all color, and it was for the taking” and so he made a commitment to his education and career.
Kurkijan graduated from Boston University with a degree in English and began working at the Boston Globe. While working as a journalist, he attended Suffolk University Law School in the evening. Journalism gave him an “access and a ticket to making a difference”. He saw the way that news could truly affect a community and create change. As a result he decided that his purpose lied in reporting and he could make a bigger impact at the globe than he could being a lawyer. He believes journalism encompasses the First Amendment; “you can make a difference with your reporting”. From this belief Kurkijan took part in founding the Spotlight Team. Kurkijan emphasized that investigative journalism is truly “where the rubber meets the road”, where the system of government meets the reality of the people’s everyday lives.
One of the biggest investigative journalism pieces ever reported was the Catholic Church scandal published by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team. Kurkijan was not a member of the team during this time but he was working at the globe and recalled watching journalists work tirelessly. At the time over 50 percent of Boston was Catholic and it caused the city to question their core beliefs; “how can an institution that is there to protect tolerate- condone the abuse of its most vulnerable?”
“What we do as journalists is as rigorous and transparent as any other profession”. Kurkijan truly believes in the power of journalism and that there is a way that each and everyone one of us is affected by investigative reporting. Stories that would otherwise have been ignored and never gotten the attention they deserve have an opportunity to be heard; “Spotlight was designed to go after stories no one knew about”. There is an unspoken responsibility in being a journalist ,because “you are dealing with the most precious of what each of us has and that is our reputation”. Kurkijan ended his talk with this quote urging listeners to be smart, vigilant, and to always go after the truth.